For 43 years, the Center for Creative Leadership has dedicated itself to the research and teaching of leadership across the world. True to it's mission from its inceptions - 'to advance the understanding, practice and development of leadership for the benefit of society worldwide', The Center has graduated over half a million leaders through its programs.
"The story begins in the twentieth century in North Carolina (U.S.A.), when Lunsford Richardson, with the help of his son H. Smith Richardson, founded a company to sell and distribute a series of home remedies he had invented as a small town pharmacist. The company built around one of these remedies, Vicks VapoRub, a salve containing menthol that relieved head and chest congestion, eventually grew into the Vick Chemical Company.
The vision for CCL® belonged to H. Smith Richardson, who - as the family business grew - became its principal shareholder. Richardson was concerned about the sustainability of family firms like his own, observing that new leaders often failed after taking over from the previous generation. With the Vicks fortune, the Richardson family foundation began to fund scholars and behavioral scientists to study topics related to leadership and creativity.
In 1970, this businessman to help meet the needs of businesses and, ultimately, all organizations founded the Center for Creative Leadership. Since then, and for more than three decades, we have successfully combined a sustained investment in leadership research with an educational mission. The integration of behavioral science research and practical business application is the core of our mission and identity. Our rallying slogan is "ideas into action." Implied in that phrase - and just as important - is our commitment to "action into ideas."
We were named the Center for Creative Leadership because Richardson's vision and philosophy centered on boldness and what he called "cross-country thinking." Leadership, our founders believed, is about responding creatively to change, in order to avoid or overcome the usual pitfalls of leading an organization. "...It takes boldness to invest in programs of uncertain potentialities, but it is out of such support that some of the greatest discoveries have been made."
(From Unconventional Wisdom: A Brief History of CCL's Pioneering Research and Innovation, by Sarah Glover and Meena Wilson (2006).)
Not surprisingly, CCL has claimed a Top 10 ranking in all of the last 12 years in which it has participated in the Financial Times Executive Education survey. In 2013, The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) ranked No. 8 overall in the 2013 Financial Times worldwide survey of executive education.
CCL, with offices in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, also ranks No. 5 worldwide for Custom programs. The Financial Times ranks institutions that offer customized executive education in 10 sub-categories. CCL placed in the Top 10 in seven of them: Preparation; Program Design; Teaching Methods; Faculty; New Skills & Learning; Aims Achieved; and Facilities.
The Financial Times executive education rankings are based on direct feedback from organizational and individual clients around the world who rated leading executive education providers, such as Harvard, Wharton, INSEAD and IMD, for quality and impact.
Of the more than 70 institutions ranked by the Financial Times, CCL remains the only one that specializes in leadership education and research.
As early as 1970, H. Smith Richardson recognized the shortage in the supply of leaders. He was genuinely interested in building leadership capability to help meet the needs of businesses and, ultimately, all organizations.
Leadership, the founders believed, is about responding creatively to change, in order to avoid or overcome the usual pitfalls of leading an organization. “…It takes boldness to invest in programs of uncertain potentialities, but it is out of such support that some of the greatest discoveries have been made.”
H. Smith Richardson was also troubled by the popular notion of the times that "Leaders are born, not made". The Center came into being at a time when leadership development was a novel and not widely understood concept. We organized around a bold, even radical notion that leadership can be learned.
The Center’s belief that leaders can be made led to a new field of research and a new industry: management and leadership development. Having accepted that leaders can be developed, the researchers at CCL needed to understand more fully how that happens. They believed that leader development is synonymous with personal development. They also deeply believed that the key to professional and personal growth is “assessment for development.”
The concept of assessment for development (as opposed to assessment for selection, promotion or performance review) was also radical at that time. A vital feature of assessment for development is keeping assessment data (feedback) confidential to the person being assessed and not sharing results with the boss or anyone else. Keeping the information private helps individuals better absorb the learning by helping them save face and also by making the feedback more honest. Assessment for development feedback is a cornerstone of the Center’s work even until today.
By 1974, Center staff members decided to test their theories in the fields of leadership, creativity and experiential education by building a program around techniques they had been studying — literally putting our “ideas into action.” The new program was called the Leadership Development Program (LDP)® .
Today it remains the Center’s flagship program, helping develop more than 2,000 leaders worldwide each year, for a total of nearly 75,000 since LDP was launched. To truly understand leadership and leadership development, we knew we had to study actual leaders and managers in organizations. Inviting practicing leaders to a leadership development program provided a great laboratory to help us learn about effective leadership and transform “action into ideas.” At CCL, we deliver leadership education programs not only to serve society and our clients, but also because the programs help us access and understand real-life, practicing leaders and managers — as opposed to university students who traditionally are used as subjects for academic research.
Also in the 1970s, a small team of Center researchers, interested in how managers share information and make decisions, decided to experiment with building a simulation that would replicate a day in a manager’s work life. Funded for a time by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, and influenced by the work of noted researcher Henry Mintzberg, the goal of this project was purely research: build a simulation, run managers through it, observe them, and then collect and analyze the data.
Participants in the simulation, however, wanted to know “how did we do?” They were interested in getting feedback on the quality of their performance in the simulation. We recognized another excellent opportunity for assessment for development — and the seed for our next big success was planted. Looking Glass, Inc. (LGI) was born in 1979. To help more managers experience the simulation and learn from it, we designed a Center program around LGI called The Looking Glass Experience® .
More than 50,000 managers have tried their hand at running this fictitious glass manufacturing company, through attending this program when offered by CCL or a licensee in our network of training providers.
The underlying insight behind both these path breaking leadership development programs is what drives its effectiveness. When a leader gets access to irrefutable information about the experience others have of her leadership, she gets a higher level of awareness.
The Center for Creative Leadership engages in a continuous and fruitful cycle of turning ideas into action and action into ideas. We teach from our research and learn from our teaching. We act on what we learn by developing new views of leadership, new assessment techniques, programs and strategies responding to the evolving challenges faced by leaders and their organizations.
We believe self-knowledge is the most important factor in the practice of leadership. Becoming more acutely aware of one's strengths and weaknesses is a type of "unfreezing" which leads to accurately setting goals and taking action to improve. As a result, rather than teaching how to manage, analyze or strategize, we help leaders "learn how to learn" from colleagues, their organization and competition. Most importantly, we help leaders learn from their own experience.
Individuals rarely have the opportunity to receive extensive feedback in the workplace — to understand how others perceive them. The Center's programs provide leaders with the time, tools and environment needed to gain a comprehensive and accurate view of themselves, and to set personal development goals and begin working toward them. In fact, CCL's extensive use of assessment and honest, productive feedback is frequently cited as the most valuable part of our programs.
Focus on The Two Key Differentiators:
From research in homogeneous populations, we saw two key differentiators affecting how individuals develop as leaders: personality and job experiences. Since then CCL has focused research and training on those two factors: personality differences and the influence of job experiences on leadership development.
Central to most program designs are modules around understanding personality and simulations of job experiences. While personality awareness is raised using instruments like the Work Place Big 5, FIRO Business or MBTI, The Center uses simulations like Oshry's Organization Workshop to create workshop experiences that closely mirror the ones in the work place.
In Program Coaching:
Most CCL programs are designed to include time with an executive coach within the duration of the program itself. In this 60 to 180 minutes with the coach, the executive is able to bring all the data points gathered in the course of the program, and use the newly acquired self-awareness to build a set of goals to pursue once back into the workplace. The Coach works with the participant to draw themes out of 360 - Feedback, Psychometric instruments used in the workshop and other pieces of information that the manager brings to the conversation. In some programs, the coach does a few follow up calls to help the executive to stay the course and follow through.
This has contributed significantly to the efficacy of a large number of CCL's programs where participants consistently rate the effectivess of the training among the highest they have experienced.
CCL runs its own process to select and continually build capability of its large number of associate of adjunct coaches across the world. Coaches go through a thorough assessment, selection and ramp-up process before they coach participants in a CCL program. With participant consent, coaching sessions are recorded to ensure coaches are debriefed and the quality of coaching is constantly improving. Today, CCL has among the largest number of managed coaches in the industry.
A large part of CCL’s contribution to the field in the 1980s was the creation of 360-degree assessment tools designed specifically for leadership development and NOT for selection or evaluation. The term “360-degree assessment” refers to involving the “full circle” of people with whom an employee interacts at work: boss, peers and direct reports. One of our first 360-degree assessment instruments, SKILLSCOPE® , debuted in 1986 as part of The Looking Glass Experience. It is used to measure skills necessary for effectiveness in a management role.
Six different 360-degree assessment tools — 360 BY DESIGN® , Executive Dimensions™ , Benchmarks® , Prospector® , Campbell™ Leadership Index (CLI)® and SKILLSCOPE® — have been created at CCL over the years, and we update them as new research findings or advancing technology warrant. CCL programs and clients also use other kinds of assessments developed by our researchers (e.g., self-assessment or organizational assessment).
Pioneering research and validation of 360-degree assessment tools and feedback techniques revolutionized the assessment process. Along with the creation and use of these tools in our programs came the opportunity to establish an extensive assessment database that would be the envy of organizational researchers for years to come. (Currently, we process nearly 27,000 participant assessments each year.)
This database is unique in that the data come from the largest pool of “normal” working adults ever psychologically assessed. Most psychometric assessment data typically are collected from people being treated for psychological problems.
The way we think about leadership affects how we perceive the leaders around us. For instance, if we expect a leader to be a hero, we are likely to see someone who takes charge to save the day as a good leader and someone who asks everyone’s opinions and lets the group make decisions as weak. Alternatively, if we think a leader should be collaborative and focused on making sure decisions arise from the group, we would view someone who is directive as aggressive or a tyrant.
In the same way, our beliefs about how people become leaders affect how we evaluate people’s leadership potential. Believing people are born leaders is likely to result in a focus more on selection (identify the right people) rather than on development (develop the people you get). On the other hand, believing that people are made into leaders by their experiences would be more likely to result in a greater focus on making sure people had the right opportunities to develop into leaders. The Center wanted to establish the latter beyond reasonable doubt.
In partnership with an array of corporate sponsors, the Center conducted interviews with executives to determine how they learn and grow on the job and why some executives succeed while others “derail.” The resulting book, The Lessons of Experience (Lexington Books, 1988), became a Center best-seller and contributed significantly to both research and practice in the human resources field.
The “Lessons of Experience” research made CCL professionals among the first to emphasize the critical link between on-the-job learning and leadership development. This research established that challenging work assignments and a variety of rich on-the-job experiences contribute most to executives’ development (as contrasted with formal leadership training programs). Those findings have changed the way companies and consultants approach executive development. This research has been replicated by external researchers in university environments and in the Netherlands and Japan. We now are conducting a similar study in Asia.
“Success and Derailment” research was also part of this major project. Derailment refers to the phenomenon of managers getting off track in their expected career progression through demotion or hitting a plateau. Through this research, we were able to understand what contributes to derailment and to help managers learn to avoid it. A study of the reasons for derailment in Europe was conducted later.
The well known and generally accepted 70/20/10 Model is a Learning and Development model based on research conducted by Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger for the Center for Creative Leadership.
These three landmark researches well and truly established the basis for a major shift in the training and development industry, from selection to development.
The Leadership Development Program (LDP)® is the most well‐known and most frequently attended open‐enrolment development experience offered by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®). Since its launch in 1974, LDP has been updated regularly to keep the programme compelling and current.
In order to evaluate the efficacy of the program, data was gathered from three sources at three different points in time. Three hundred and eighty‐eight surveys, which were completed on the last day of the face‐to‐face portion of the program, were analysed. Structured interviews regarding the experience and impact of the program were conducted with 15 LDP alumni. 360‐degree feedback ratings from 45 participants approximately 3 months after the LDP experience were analyzed to determine impact on the individual and organization after the program.
Overall, LDP received high satisfaction ratings and spurred significant changes in knowledge, behaviour and the attitudes of participants involved in this study. Changes were linked to improvements on an organisational level.
Among the most important findings:
100% of participants who used REFLECTIONS, a 360‐degree feedback instrument on leadership competence, reported impact at the individual and organisational levels. 92% of raters reported observing impact at the individual level and 96% reported observing impact at the organisational level. ®,
The top areas of individual impact include:
• Leadership Effectiveness
• Readiness for leadership responsibilities
• Using feedback to make changes
• Ability to coach others in the organisation
The top areas of organisational impact include:
• Ability to work with other groups
• Quality of decision‐making processes
• Group effectiveness
• Openness to diverse perspectives
96% of participants reported having made some or significant improvements in their targeted developmental areas.
The two areas of greatest behavioural change were increased self‐awareness and better skills in receiving and giving feedback. These areas were also rated as most relevant by participants.
The interview data revealed enhanced communication, more effective goal setting and increased personal effectiveness as key individual and organisational outcomes.
Interview participants noted that the program was culturally appropriate and provided a multicultural experience.
All LDP programmes conducted in Europe between September 2006 and September 2007 received average satisfaction ratings above 4.0 on a 5 point scale. Fifteen of the 18 (83%) programmes conducted had averages between 4.5 and 5.0.
Six out of 8 (75%) Learning Outcomes were met on average “to a great extent” or “to a very great extent.”
Seven out of 8 (75%) Learning Outcomes received an average rating of being important “to a great extent” or “to a very great extent.”
The most valuable aspects of the LDP were perceived to be the private coaching session and the peer feedback session.
It’s Not Just Follow-the-Leader Anymore
Center faculty (as well as all of our colleagues in the burgeoning field of leadership development) had been focusing for years on leadership as more or less “what a leader does.” In that view, the quality of leadership hinges primarily on the traits, skills, style and relationships of individuals and the nature of the environment in which they find themselves. What was beginning to happen, however, was that the environments were changing in a rapid-fire way. This turbulence was making some traditional approaches and styles of leadership less effective. CCL recognized the need for a better understanding and new angle on leadership for an increasingly complex society. We wondered:
“What if leadership is about connections and practices just as much as about the actions of individual people?”
Change, Complexity and Creativity
We’ve noted that our founders were interested in creativity for leadership. During the first decade of CCL’s existence, annual Creativity Weeks brought top creative minds from around the world to CCL’s headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., to share their insights. This festive fall event evolved into the Association for Managers of Innovation, a network of innovation and creativity practitioners that continues to thrive today with more than 40 members worldwide. Connections made through such networking and learning opportunities have resulted in new knowledge and understanding of the relationship between creativity and leadership. Witnessing the changes our client organizations were going through led us early on to studies of creativity, innovation and teamwork. The turmoil they were experiencing only grew as the years went by — and it grew faster and more drastically until everyone was saying, “change is the only constant!”
So the Center’s approach to addressing change has been to take a closer look at environments or contexts, such as organizational climate, systemic methods for developing leadership talent, the evaluation of leadership development initiatives, and the application of new thinking about networks and relational leadership to concepts of leadership. As our work has evolved over the decades, we’ve been able to articulate more clearly the links between leadership, creativity, change and complexity. This is ongoing work.
Seeing connections and similarities among several streams of CCL work — regarding teams, groups, organizational systems, complex challenges and the question “What is leadership when it’s not about what a leader does?” — in 2002 the Center launched a major project integrating these streams of research called “Connected Leadership.”
The project’s goal is to establish a new leadership development practice that views leadership holistically — as an inclusive and collective activity shared by many, if not all, members of the organization. This means that leadership development addresses not only individuals but the links between individuals and the systems and cultures in which they work.
Technology Aids Development
As the world has been “getting smaller” through the increasing ubiquity of the personal computer and the advent of the Internet — highlighting the importance of collaboration and cultural knowledge — training and development professionals at the Center and across our field have begun thinking about how and where learning about leadership (and many other topics) might be accomplished. While the kinds of behavioral change in which the Center specializes are best undertaken face to face, the increased availability of technology-based tools allows more learning to occur at a distance and at a time more convenient to the learner.
Distance learning and “blended” learning (combining the virtual format with the face-to-face format) both present challenges and opportunities — for the Center and our clients. Webinars and Web-based goal management systems are two illustrations of how we use technology to help extend the development “process” beyond the classroom “event,” in keeping with our beliefs about learning.
The text of this entry has been sourced almost verbatim from a large number of CCL white papers that are available on the website CCL.org I have merely pieced together this remarkable story to meet the requirements of the format of the entry. The real authors of these papers are listed below.
The many "keepers" of CCL history, Meena Wilson, Jeffrey Yip, Cynthia McCauley, Marian Ruderman, Ellen Van Velsor, Martin Wilcox.
Other colleagues who helped, knowingly or unknowingly, with information and/or encouragement include John Alexander, David Altman, Cynthia Bower, Barri Burch, David Campbell, Kathryn Cartner, Carolyn Chan, Michelle Crouch, Bill Drath, Christopher Ernst, Stan Gryskiewicz, Kelly Hannum, David Horth, Rich Hughes, Jennifer Martineau, Patricia O’Connor, Lyndon Rego, Susan Rice and Mary Schwartz.
Harvey L. Lineberry, II & Willette Nash - North Carolina, A&T State University / Regina Herzfeldt - Center for Creative Leadership Europe / Judith Steed, Emily Hoole & Kelly Hannum - Center for Creative Leadership North America