It never ceases to amaze me that the leadership intent and subsequent practice within organisations are often poles apart. I recently experienced this when working with the management team of a privately owned manufacturing company who were developing a strategy to expand out of their home market.
My discussions with the management team were fairly routine; their market was saturated, profits were stalling but opportunities to move into new markets provided the channels to grow the company whilst new products were being developed. The initial assessment looked good – it seemed that they would be able to replicate their home market advantage in most if not all, of the proposed new markets.
The strategy work was developing well under the leadership of one of the junior executives who headed up a cross-functional team. Plans were in place to acquire new facilities, staffing levels were being assessed and a recruitment and training plan was being developed. The impact on the company’s supply chains were also being evaluated as this was fundamental to achieving a smooth entry into the new market.
Encouragingly there was also a work-stream in place to assess how to ensure that the necessary leadership model was developed to embrace the requirements of operating in the new regions. “We recognise that getting the right leadership model and behaviours in place will be critical to the overall success of the venture” enthused the CEO. “We are really fortunate that the team leader is a real asset to this programme. He’s nearing the end of his MBA at a top US business school and has been able to save us a fortune in consultancy fees“
Later that day I met the team leader over coffee to discuss his plans. I naturally shared with him the conversation that I’d had with the CEO and confided how pleased he was that the company’s investment in his MBA was providing such rich rewards.
“That’s very strange” he responded “I’ve funded the MBA out of my own pocket and I have taken holiday to enable me to attend the course. When I asked the CEO to sponsor me he just said that he couldn’t see what benefit it could be to the company”. Just then his Blackberry rang. “Oh could you excuse me for a moment. I need to take this – it’s my headhunter”