The corporate world continually struggles to develop and identify high quality leaders. Increased global economic volatility and competitiveness makes identifying, developing, and attracting elite leadership more important than ever. Time and time again, executive boards mistakenly select the wrong person to lead the company or an important division. These errors in process and judgment can yield ominous results and even abrupt liquidation of the most successful companies and divisions. Empowering the wrong people will have toxic and cancerous effects on a once highly committed corporate culture. To solve this leadership void and make wiser decisions, executives and board members need to look beyond the constricting confines and routines of the corporate boardroom and draw invaluable insights and lessons from other areas of life. Through instructive analogies one can find winning solutions. For instance, an almost point for point analogy exists between toxic hiring decisions and practices and toxic industrial agriculture methods. Much can be learned from the study of healthy sustainable agriculture and ecological systems and how synthetic additives and genetic modifications have the following deleterious effects: (1) poisoning the ecosystem and disrupting its natural sustainability; (2) polluting supporting adjacent ecosystems and damaging the larger environment; and (3) delivering carcinogens and toxins into the bodies of humans and animals.
American cancer rates have ballooned over the past three decades and this increase has triggered public scrutiny of the systems that produce our food. Processed and microwavable dinners, a favorite of the 70s and 80s, have been increasingly challenged by organic, free range, and locally raised farm products from the likes of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Almost all good restaurants have menus filled with these same natural environmentally friendly entrée options. Seeking higher production and higher profits, agribusiness has increasingly relied on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, growth hormones, and GMOs. The general public—the mass of supposedly “low information” voters—has become more aware of the dangers that chemicals and genetic modifications pose to the food production cycle, interconnected ecosystems, and to personal health. Seeking healthier alternatives the public is returning to organic and sustainable basics. In an interesting parallel, corporate America has contaminated its leadership farm system by speeding up the leadership development process and attempting to synthesize executives through MBA programs alone. In addition to these artificially produced “leaders,” corporations remain plagued by the old problems of cronyism and favoritism, which unwisely promote people to positions of influence based on personal politics rather than on merit. The negative effect of both of these short-cutting trends is weak and unhealthy leadership.
The attempts to accelerate leadership and skip the natural and organic maturation process have the same disruptive effects on corporate culture that injecting animals with steroids and antibiotics have on the food chain and ecosystem. In each case, the environment’s sustainability is threatened and insidious cancers develop. Despite wishful thinking, there will never be a short cut for leadership development. Organic leadership is not based on the schools and diplomas but on the people served and on the accomplishments that have earned their trusting followership—this process takes time. Good leadership selection is also an organic process. All too often, the selection process is skewed on favoritism or political cronyism. If public anointment is needed to crown new leaders, then by definition they haven’t earned the honor. Authentic leaders are those naturally selected by the people not operators who have curried more political favor at the top. The results of these artificial processes and corruptions of leadership DNA will always be a toxic, degraded, and compromised corporate environment.
At some point, the corporate world needs to recognize its deeply engrained flaw and commit to a more organic leadership development culture, in which tomorrow’s leaders can be naturally fostered, accurately observed, and then properly rewarded. Executives must accept that current leadership selection run counter to nature, cause deeply-rooted systemic problems, and eliminate any chance of achieving corporate sustainability.
Fortunately, advancements in communication technology make it possible to monitor and assess a sales culture more thoroughly than ever before. Today, we can accurately identify and quantify which sales reps demonstrate the most leadership promise—i.e., who is dedicated to team success, who consistently leads by example, and who educates and inspires. These are the actions that create trust and followership. Formerly arbitrary and biased leadership assessment can now be quantified and analyzed for improved decision making. When executives transparently share this nuanced data with the entire sales team, the leadership decision-making process is by definition more organic, natural, and clear. Besides being fair and rational, it also creates acceptance and consensus amongst the ranks. It will be obvious to the entire corporate environment who has earned the mantel and responsibility of leadership.
When our intrusive actions have toxic results for both today and tomorrow then we must return to more organic natural processes. Currently, PEPPER is the only mobile sales training solution that not only improves sales performance but also accurately assesses management’s ability to effectively coach and lead. Very importantly, at PEPPER’s core, is a transparent and ongoing peer review system that tracks both the accuracy and impact of each peer review. This evidence allows executives to accurately identify the naturally-developing leaders within the sales force. The daily peer review allows front line reps to proactively develop and demonstrate leadership before having the official leadership title. Planting PEPPER into the daily routine of a sales force creates an organic improvement culture that cultivates home grown leaders and fosters corporate health and sustainability.