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Can You Measure Leadership?

Many company leaders cite the lack of qualified leadership talent as the most significant constraint on their enterprises' growth. But they find that it's simply not enough to put a leadership training program in place or hold an annual talent review. Instead, companies must be rigorous and focused in their assessment of leadership talent, aided by tools tailored to help achieve that end. They must hold leaders accountable for cultivating others, diagnosing gaps in execution and capability, and redirecting resources as business needs change. Human resources and business leaders also need insights into where they have succeeded in building leadership and critical talent pipelines and where there are potential risks. In short, companies need to bring a rigorous "measurement mind-set" to the often inexact process of developing the next generation of leaders.

In 2007, Hewitt Associates Inc. partnered with The RBL Group and Fortune to conduct a global study, called Top Companies for Leaders, which identified companies -- such as Cummins, American Express and General Mills -- with exceptional commitment to and passion for identifying and developing leadership talent. In these organizations, tools such as sophisticated leadership scorecards measure the effectiveness of leadership practices and tie those responsible for their outcomes with their actual results.

Even at companies that already have comprehensive leadership strategies, expanding the use of data and fine-tuning metrics is a high priority. Considering that the very essence of a measurement mind-set is to constantly question, challenge and use data to guide processes and drive decision making, one should expect nothing less of a company committed to growing effective leaders. Around the world, the authors have found that when metrics are "baked into" the leadership strategy, the resulting benefits include a more rigorous talent search and development process, a higher quality of thought brought to the table by participants, and ultimately the strengthening of the company's leadership team.
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