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Leadership development doesn’t just happen. It takes a strategic view to understand how to bring in new talent and cultivate existing talent. Talent cultivation is an essential component to a thriving organization’s culture. The key to ensuring leadership cultivation is to create and maintain robust performance appraisal and management systems for the entire staff.

Vibrant organizations have strong, strategic leaders who recognize the importance of continual talent cultivation. They foster a culture of growth and development for all managers and staff that cascades leadership development to all levels. This includes creating an environment where each staff member experiences a sense of ownership, leadership, responsibility, and accountability and is supported in knowing that he or she is a positive, contributing member of the team.

The opportunity for individuals at all levels to exercise leadership brings out the best strengths of those involved and reduces the sense of frustration that can occur when information and decision-making are concentrated in the hands of the founder or long-term leader. Effective leaders know the importance of sharing information and decision-making with their boards and their staffs. This is especially true when more dramatic changes occur in the organization. It is a much better experience for each individual to be on board and to contribute positively to the evolution of the organization than for people to feel forced into a corner by changes other people have initiated with little input into the future. Often, the impetus to identify potential leaders and address their professional development comes from the recognition that a change in leadership might take place.

Uniform and timely processes help to assess the effectiveness of leadership development.  These should cascade from the chief executive to senior leadership. Processes should be based on clearly defined goals, enabling the organization to realistically mark what is working and what needs to be refined. Goals, objectives, and expectations must be articulated, and each person’s performance should be evaluated against these. This performance management system should both measure accomplishments and prescribe appropriate development opportunities, goals, and objectives for every staff member, beginning with the chief executive.

With these processes in place as part of the regular evaluation and development of the growth of each staff member, the chief executive can be at liberty to look more broadly at how he or she can create an organizational culture focused on the continued building and expansion of that talent. The bottom line is that every organization should have a process and plan in place to invest in their staff. The following are features of organizations that are prepared to invest in leadership development and succession planning:

Organizations can establish a learning culture, continually looking for opportunities that enable staff to cultivate strengths.
All levels of staff are given opportunities to grow and learn new skills.
Development opportunities can be created that include involvement in decision-making and shared leadership, such as rotating facilitation of staff meetings.
At all levels, staff roles in decision-making can be expanded.
Senior staff members are specifically evaluated on their ability to provide coaching and development for their direct reports.
The organization supports staff in volunteering outside the organization.
Senior leadership can be encouraged to participate on other boards or committees to broaden their perspective and skills.
The organization has a prescribed process to identify and develop individuals who demonstrate greater than average potential talent by creating stretch goals and growth opportunities.

The best way to support talent cultivation and align individual and organizational growth is by establishing thriving leadership practices. When organizations invest in the growth and development of staff, they stand a better chance of cultivating leadership talent internally.

Lesley Mallow Wendell and Priscilla Rosenwald
Authors, When Leaders Leave

TransitionWorks  ""

David Castro’s new book, Genership, promises to shake up a genre that has become very tired over the past 15 years. Most books in print on the subject of leadership or management offer an increasingly predictable blend of advice grounded in common sense, generally suggesting simple strategies for getting along well with others while achieving effectiveness as an executive. The prototypical example would be the late Dr. Steven Covey’s advice to “synergize” and “begin with the end in mind.” Leadership books also often lapse into a disconcerting kind of auto-hagiography in which successful leaders moralize while telling tall tales about their successes and glossing over their challenges, something like watching NBA highlights instead of real games. The tape always looks good when you edit out the air balls! Stars always overcome their challenges, and we too can succeed by learning to mimic their excellent practices. So the story goes.

But Castro’s book does something courageous that we haven’t seen before in this genre: He questions the very concept of leadership itself, thinking through its limitations. “Imagine walking into the International Academy of Management and suggesting that management is an idea whose time has passed,” writes Castro. Indeed. This is a challenging and refreshing approach, akin to Galileo asking Ptolemy’s followers to swap the sun for the earth as the center of the solar system. Castro’s central thesis in Genership is that leadership practices have the potential to evolve into something better and stronger. His book describes this evolution and encourages it, inviting us to see the eagle waiting to emerge from a soon-to–be-extinct pterodactyl.

Castro argues that today’s effective and evolved leadership—good leadership—is actually quite different from traditional leadership. It is so different, says Castro, that it deserves a new name. He suggests genership (jen’-er-ship), seeing it as the special skill of broadly enabling creativity within groups. Throughout the book, Castro invites us to think about the ways in which this community practice of creativity is central to human progress and even to human identity.

As part of his case, Castro offers a potent critique of traditional leadership processes within organizations, introducing us to three fallacies: the messiah fallacy, the hero fallacy and the fallacy of leadership nostalgia. Castro’s criticism of traditional leadership merits patient review and reflection. He exposes something truly strange about modern organizational life: the way in which groups irrationally seek out a messianic leader, attempt to fix blame and responsibility on that person for all of the group’s problems and then wait for their messiah to fail and fall. Castro rightly suggests that the process of combat among heroic messianic contenders, along with our cultural obsession with seeking “the One” who can supposedly solve all of our problems, drives groups to absurd levels of ineffectiveness. Groups mired in such dynamics end up wasting enormous amounts of productive energy. Castro’s critique will open readers’ eyes to the ways in which such irrational thinking has become the norm in everyday organizational life. This unflinching assessment is provocative and timely. One need only think about the 2012 presidential election to see how a culture can become imprisoned within such fallacious thinking.

In clearing the path for genership, Castro offers much more than a critique of traditional leadership practices. In a series of meaty chapters, he meditates on specific and interrelated organizational practices central to creativity within groups: Listening, CoThinking, CoVisioning, Relationships, Conflict and Learning, Systems Thinking, Creativity and Group Dynamics. In each arena, Castro employs potent examples to explore how traditional leadership can evolve into more powerful genership skills, delivering not the rote implementation of a messianic leader’s vision but rather the full engagement of communities in shared creative projects. Some of these passages tread ground that will be familiar to students learning organizational theory, which Castro acknowledges has informed his perspectives. This work, however, provides something profoundly new: an overarching idea—genership—that has the potential to change the conversation within organizations about the meaning and practice of leadership. If leadership does evolve into genership, as Castro advocates, there is no doubt that organizations around the world will change in ways that open significant new possibilities for human progress.

Castro successfully situates genership within a greater philosophical and religious context. His thoughts about this, found in the preface and in the final chapter, are compelling. He first contends that human nature is fundamentally creative and that to participate in the divine power to create is the most important way in which humans exist in the image of their creator. In a world in which religion often seems to promise only submission to doctrine, Castro’s focus on human creativity as something spiritual is inspiring and motivating! Second, he says that our search for messianic leaders is really a form of idolatry that wisdom literature has warned against since the dawn of recorded time. No man is God. If there is only one God, it follows that all human leaders are fallible and imperfect. It would be helpful to remember this truth in working with real leaders in real organizations, says Castro. In that spirit, let me say that he does not pretend to be a messiah and his work is not perfect, and I am sure it would gratify him to hear me say so. The full title, Genership 1.0, points toward future editions. Castro is humbly inviting his audience to a dialogue and he understands that his ideas will change, develop and improve within the context of that dialogue. And that is exactly what he would want to happen. Read this book as a way of entering into this important conversation not as a mere spectator, but as a full participant in the development of a new way of leading called genership.

Author Bio

Phillip Thomas is an entrepreneur, an executive at the Institute for Leadership Education and a lecturer at Eastern University.


Although Mindfire is a relatively short book, coming in at less than 200 pages, it packs a powerful punch. It is broken down into 3 parts: Gasoline, Sparks, and Fire. Each section features essays with titles such as "How to be a free thinker" and "Book Smarts vs. Street Smarts." Berkun's writing covers a wide range of philosophical topics that are relevant in today's difficult times. His unique vision gives the reader a different perspective on how to look at various opportunities, challenges and personal goals.

Berkun previously worked at Microsoft up until 2003. He is now a public speaker, author of several books, and maintains the website His writing style is direct and to the point, managing to not come across as arrogant, preaching, or pretending to have all the answers. Many of the topics he writes about are situations a person encounters on an everyday basis.

One of my favorite essays in his newest book is called "How to make a difference." Berkun writes, "We all have limits. We can't change things as much as we'd like. But we can all do small things that make more of a difference than we realize." This essay reminded me of the Occupy movements and also the Arab Spring. One person felt the need to mobilize, and then another person followed suit. People began communicating and the world soon took notice.

As the new year gets underway, make it a point to pick up Mindfire and check out Berkun's website. His work will inspire you to try to make a positive difference in the world. At the very least his writing will inspire you to get up off the couch and begin seeing things differently.

The Power of Social Innovation: How Civic Entrepreneurs Ignite Community Networks for Good by Stephen Goldsmith with Gigi Georges and Tim Glynn Burke. Jossey-Bass, March 2010. 304 pages. $35.00.

The Power of Social Innovation provides the entrepreneur in all of us with ideas and ways to create social innovations at the community level. Goldsmith argues that to “create truly vibrant cities [and communities], we need to invent new approaches.” But more importantly, he argues that we “need to grow and execute [scale] these social innovations across entire systems.”  Throughout his book he provides great case studies highlighting the process of success of social entrepreneurs and innovative movements in social service and education delivery systems.  And his message is clear that communities need to create an environment that enables “continual innovation” while also demanding performance and real impact.

So how do we do that? Goldsmith’s theory of change, called the Vortex of Social Change, brilliantly outlines the interconnectedness of how social good is a cyclical results-oriented process, impacted for good or bad by actors who are market makers and service providers at both local and national levels.

For social innovators and entrepreneurs, this is a must read.

—Tine Hansen-Turton, PSIJ Co-Founder

The language of Twitter can be confusing to someone who is new to “tweeting,” with the use of terms such as hashtagsretweets, and followers. In his book “The Tao of Twitter” author Mark W. Schaefer (@markwschaefer) makes it easier to get started on the popular micro-blogging site. With over 100 million tweets sent per day, the power of Twitter simply cannot be ignored.

This book touches on how the social media site is about building relationships and making connections. Schaefer tells a story about how his tweet of “Go Steelers!” led, through follow-up communication, to creating a new business venture. He writes in a manner that even the most novice Twitter user can understand.

Facebook is great for connecting with old friends and for sharing bits of information. Pinterest continues to grow in its popularity. Google+ is still trying to gain steam. However, Twitter has the most up-side when it comes to obtaining information, following news as it develops, and creating content to share with the public. If Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov can tap into Twitter to connect with fans, even the most casual user should be able to see its benefit.  Check out “Tao of Twitter” and get tweeting....

Jason Love can be reached at @wildwoodtweets.    

"Everybody needs an evil plan. Everybody needs that crazy, out-there idea that allows them to actually start doing something they love, doing something that matters."- Hugh MacLeod

In the last few years, the economy has been turned on its head. No one is safe. No job is 100 percent secure. No corporation is unshakable. No position is irreplaceable. In a sense, the party is officially over. Hugh MacLeod's new book, Evil Plans: On the Road to World Domination, addresses these issues and much more. 

People need a plan. MacLeod believes we should have an "evil plan." He is the creator of the popular blog, He is also an artist, entrepreneur, author, and wears a variety of other hats. He is creative, forward-thinking, open-minded and generous. His writing style and artistic flair are similar to writers such as Seth Godin and David Meerman Scott.       

Evil Plans is a simple read, yet it strikes at the very core of one's fears, aspirations, hopes and dreams. This isn't an understatement. The chapters touch upon such subjects as being trapped in a dead-end job, how to market projects and ideas, and why it's not only okay but necessary to think outside the norm.  

Throughout the book, MacLeod includes his artwork, which helps lighten the mood. This is not a book filled with nothing but doom and gloom. It is quite the opposite; his words and art inspire, motivate, and will make you laugh. 

My only complaint with his vision is possibly the oversimplification. This economy is still struggling and if there are bills to pay and mouths to feed, even a dead-end, boring job is a paycheck. MacLeod's advice would be to leave this type of job before it steals your soul and corrupts your heart. One has to respect his optimism and go-for-it attitude. This book gives the reader a blueprint for hatching his or her own 'evil plan'. Having the guts and determination to follow through with the plan however is another story....