Houston, We Have A Problem

Leadership Development Post COVID-19
Summary: Our businesses need the greatest business leaders of all time to respond to the economic challenges. We must meet the challenge of rapidly developing profound leadership skills in all aspects of our businesses.

Developing Great Leaders Post COVID-19

Our smartest people are not leading well and we are not prepared to develop them.

Point 1

Businesses will be significantly reducing or eliminating employee training for the rest of 2020 and perhaps beyond. In industries most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, training and development functions will be wiped out.

Due to the depth of the cash flow crisis that most companies will have by June 1, all nonessential expenses must be reduced or eliminated. One "easy" expense to get rid of is training because businesses don’t do a good job of determining the return on their investment. That may be depressing news to those who were looking forward to participating in a company’s leadership development program this fall (or employees who might have been sent to leadership external training).

For many employees, this means they will have to fend for themselves. However, for most younger and emerging leaders, who they haven’t had any resources before, they aren’t going to miss something they never had. So, they have always been on their own when it comes to developing the so-called soft skills of leadership.

Point 2

In many businesses, the people who rise to the top positions with the most leadership responsibilities are the ones who seemingly are the smartest. But as one rises in responsibility, the technical responsibilities decline as the leadership responsibilities increase. Most smart people find themselves ill-equipped to lead their teams and the organization because they have technically focused most of their time and energy.

In 2018, according to Brandon Hall Group’s 2018 HCM Outlook, leadership development research showed that “no more than 41% of organizations believe LD programs at any leader level—from emerging and frontline all the way to the executive level—are effective. The outlook is clear: leadership development is poised for disruption—partially through reinvention and partially by democratization.”

What’s A CEO To Do? Stop/Start/Continue

1. Stop Comparing

Stop comparing the way you developed yourself to others. You developed yourself with your back against the wall and connected the dots for a long time before you found your leadership groove. Your organic process may have turned out well but it’s not something that is duplicatable in today’s hyper-fast, ever-changing environment.

2. Start Recognizing

Start recognizing that your best leaders may not be your smartest lieutenants, who learned to "manage up" better than lead their teams. You need a dose of reality; unless you have done a 360-degree assessment of your people, you don’t know if they are perceived as leading effectively.

3. Start Developing

Start developing more of your potential leaders, not just the smartest ones but those that seem to do a great job asking and listening to others, those that have humility and put their team ahead of themselves. Look for those that have trust and respect. Notice the people that have an incredible personal resolve to drive results and balance that by demonstrating a concern for others.

4. Start Redesigning Leadership Training

If you have been doing some form of leadership development in the past, now is the time to question how it could be redeveloped and redesigned in a more efficient and effective manner. Leadership development should be done as a process and should reward people for changing behavior. Therefore, there must be a measurement in the process. Your process probably doesn't have any significant ways to help people create new habits or the metrics to measure habits and results.

5. Start Developing A Coaching And Development Process

If you've never done any form of leadership development, find the best leader in your organization and make it their responsibility to work with you as the sponsor to develop a coaching and development process. Let people know that you will "invest" your personal energy into helping people become outstanding leaders. I guarantee this will be noticed and be a big positive for your business.

Ensure that those you nominate to be a part of the process agree to be accountable for a process of establishing frequent observations of their progress and effort and key learnings. If you need some help in designing what this could look like, refer to my book: Best Boss Ever: 5 steps to rapidly developing yourself into the kind of leader everyone wants to follow.

6. Stop Thinking About Eliminating Resources For Leadership Development

Lastly, stop thinking about eliminating all expenses and time commitments toward developing leaders. It may sound paradoxical to you as you read these words, but if you choose not to develop your best people into becoming your best leaders, you're turning your back on your organization's culture and people that will lead and sustain the changes that are necessary for your organization to win in the post-pandemic era. Now more than ever, you need extraordinary leaders who can create a vision and engage their teams to do the heavy lifting to make your organization that kind of company that everyone wants to do business with.


Twenty years ago, we put the people with the most "potential" into roles that would stretch them, learning organically from good leaders as well as bad leaders about what works and what doesn't. This model still works today but the challenge with it is that it takes too long.

Due to the complexities in our organizations and the lack of coaching and development from senior executives who are too busy, people flounder longer. Every mistake or failure lessens a person's confidence and others' perceptions that they can deliver results. No longer do we give people permission to fail greatly without them being judged as not being good enough.

Our businesses need the greatest business leaders of all time to respond to economic challenges. We must meet the challenge of rapidly developing profound leadership skills in all aspects of our businesses. Productivity, retention, engagement are all critical to our businesses and they are all primarily impacted by good or bad leadership. More importantly, outstanding leadership has a much greater impact on business results than even good leadership does. One way to make a tremendous investment in your business is to develop your leaders.