Thursday, August 6, 2009

Combining CSR with leadership development.

Dr. L. Todd Thomas, the founder and president of IMPACT Consulting and Development, advocates that companies combine the needs of their communities with the objectives of their companies' leadership development efforts. By changing the typical design of in-workshop exercises to simulations and activities that benefit existing community organizations, leaders are more engaged in the learning and the outcome has a lasting benefit. Organizations that support this type of leadership development create highly engaged and loyal leaders who see that the values of the organization extend beyond the profit and loss statement. Companies that want to go this route need to identify a purpose that's in alignment with their values and their business, partner with an organization that welcomes their involvement, and then take the time needed to combine their business purpose with their societal purpose.

They can then create some highly innovative ways of combining leadership development and social responsibility. Common skill development examples include:

Leaders can be assigned to a community development project where each individual has a certain amount of information, but no one leader has all the information. The objective is to collaborate together to achieve the desired outcome.

By assigning a leader to an objective in partnership with a non-profit organization where the outcome can't possibly be achieved by the individual themselves, you can demonstrate the problems that arise when leaders try to do everything themselves without depending on their followers. In order to be successful, the leader will have to enlist others and empower them to participate.

Leaders may have to create an internal communication strategy for another organization with the understanding that it's a real strategy - i.e. the organization will likely follow it. By comparing what they know others should do with their own practices, leaders will often identify actions they need to take to increase the effectiveness of their own communication.

Socially responsible leadership development can teach accountability through making the leaders responsible for the commitments of the company to the non-profit organization. If leaders in the activity are sure that the company won't come to their aid in achieving the objective, they'll realize their own accountability in making sure the project is successful.

There are many other leadership characteristics that can be taught in partnership with non-profit and social-responsibility organizations. Many companies routinely do community service projects, but normally miss the opportunity to use the practice as leadership development because they don’t evaluate the process later based on leadership criteria. It's the process of debriefing the learning from the activity that creates the leadership development potential.

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