It’s no surprise that the attributes required for effective leadership are those required for effective stakeholder engagement. My website, Stakeholder Engagement offers resources for developing capability for stakeholder engagement. Alongside specific stakeholder engagement capabilities, I have identified leadership, organisational learning, communication and adaptive capacity (change) as four essential capabilities to support enhanced engagement.
Compare this to the findings of the Hay Group 2010 Best Companies for Leadership research. The top twenty companies collectively, from General Electric at number one, to BASF are huge, and therefore have potential to do a lot of good by modelling leadership excellence.
Hay Group’s Ruth Wagemen pinpoints the practices the twenty best companies are more likely to do than the rest of us:
- “developing structures and practices that locate the best practices wherever they are, and whoever has them, and make sure that that’s what’s getting used throughout the organisation”
- they were “far more likely than everyone else to have an ex-pat programme that is intended to help people learn how to operate really effectively in a different culture and to lead effectively in that context”
- “were more likely to actively collect the best practices in leadership development throughout their subsidiaries, throughout the world, and to harvest those lessons and to share those practices with the rest of the organisation”
- “were much more likely to pay men and women the same, for the same kind of work.”
Organisational learning to the fore
What is particularly encouraging is the strong thread of organisational learning through these findings. The idea has been around for a long-time, but is yet to become mainstream. Bob Garrett relates how organisational learning emerged after World War Two, with the work of Reg Revans, Fritz Schumacher and Jacob Bronowski. Chris Argyris gave it impetus and Peter Senge popularised it in The Fifth Discipline. It appears that organisational learning’s potential is being tapped in these trail-blazing companies. Peter Senge urges us to “stop thinking like mechanics and to start acting like gardeners”. One interpretation of this, is to leave behind industrial age practices of organising and management, and embrace the more organic and emergent processes of the knowledge age.
Businesses can scour their internal environment for knowledge as is modelled by the top 20, and seek learning from external stakeholders too. Fostering stakeholder engagement capability can only benefit this process.
Hay Group links
Organisational learning links
- The importance of learning in organizations – great video by David Garvin and Amy Edmonson of Harvard Business School. Cuts through a lot of the verbiage about organisational learning.