Corporate Eye

Leaders As Teachers

In the past it was called mentoring or coaching, now it is called “Leaders as Teachers”.  The term is rather self explanatory: C-Suite leaders help the up-comers to become leaders.

Easy to understand, not so easy to implement. It takes up senior leaders time – a valuable corporate asset – and there is setup time if it is done right. These are the key impediments to get the C-Suite to help the up-comers.

However, there are company models that are working and the benefits are noteworthy.

Bersin & Associates, a leading corporate learning consultancy, highlights the benefits —

Our research clearly shows that “leaders teaching leaders” offers many benefits:

  • It enables a company to build a culture;
  • It demonstrates to employees that learning is valued; and,
  • It provides leaders with a forum to consistently demonstrate company values, share business strategy, and set expectations of what it means to manage and lead effectively in the company.

One of the early adopters was Becton Dickinson (BD). They put in place their program early this century. The results are impressive– nearly all of the internal programs are taught by employees including all members of the C-Suite.

View a short video on BD’s program —Leaders As Teachers at BD


Read more about BD’s program. (PDF)

Another company that uses “Leaders as Teachers” is Capital One. The company started its University in 2004.

Noteworthy is that they embrace the corporate training strategy I mentioned in my post “The Revolution in Corporate Training”.

Capital One’s learning strategy is to encourage lifelong learning that is owned by our associates. Because the corporate university is all managed online, employees take control of their own learning

Source: Capital One University puts employees in the driving seat. (PDF)

A key offering of the University is the “Leaders as Teachers” program that ensures the transfer of knowledge from senior leaders to develop leadership skills in other employees.

The leaders as teachers program involves:

  • the executive-speaker series;
  • business-leader workshops;
  • short sessions with a senior leader speaking on an area of particular expertise;
  • leaders delivering entire training programs on particular subject areas, such as change management;
  • leaders involved in particular sessions on training programs – for example, presenting the company’s strategic imperatives during its induction program, OnBoarding.

Other companies using “leaders as Teachers” include Caterpillar and  Infosys. Ed Betof who developed BD’s “Leaders as Teachers” program offers the following advice to other companies —

1. It’s important that the chairman and CEO and leadership team be involved and supportive.

2. Emphasize the value of teaching learning as part of the criteria related to leadership potential.

3. Use a change-leadership process (Kotter’s eight steps) for long-term sustainability.

4. Develop “Big Mo” (momentum). Worry little about resistance, and focus on those who want to be involved. Enough momentum always trumps resistance. People like to be part of successes and to be where positive things happen. Momentum and involvement beget more momentum and involvement. At some point, they become the norm and part of the culture.

5. Make teaching valuable, engaging, rewarding, fun, and hassle-free.

6. Maintain strategic and business goal alignment. Our programs all have a common purpose: to grow the business and our people.

7. Maintain a strong link between classroom and real-work application. All of our teaching is in the form of active learning with application to participant responsibilities

8. Make leaders as teachers cost-effective. Leaders often learn as much as, and sometimes more than, the participants.

Article On BD website (PDF)

Now consider getting your C-Suites to turn those Millennials and Xers into Leaders.

Image: Graziadio Business Report

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Ed Konczal has an MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business (with distinction). He has spent the last 10 years as an executive consultant focusing on human resources, leadership, market research, and business planning. Ed has over 10 years of top-level experience from AT&T in the areas of new ventures and business planning. He is co-author of the book "Simple Stories for Leadership Insight," published by University Press of America.