Leadership Development – Small Businesses Outscore Big Corporations

Michael Gallagher, .

happy storeownersWe have been discussing the 2011 Global Leadership Forecast, a survey conducted by Development Dimensions International (DDI). This large scale survey, encompassing thousands of respondents in 74 countries, revealed dissatisfaction among Canada’s business community in the efficacy of their leadership development programs. One interesting statistic gleaned from the Canadian Highlights report is that just 32 percent of companies with over 10,000 employees reported that their development programs were highly effective. By contrast, 44 percent of businesses with less than 500 employees felt their programs were highly effective. Why the discrepancy?

Sixty-eight percent of Canadian executives feel their companies are not doing an adequate job of fostering a strong leadership culture. Yet leadership is often cited as the number one priority.  The simple fact is that most corporations do not put the time, effort, or money into their leadership development programs. It is not that they do not think it is important – in fact, very few large corporations have absolutely no form of leadership program. They are doing something. But in leadership development, it is not enough to do it. You have to do it right.

The fact that 44 percent of smaller businesses rated their programs as highly effective serves to point out a very important reality: it is not just about resources. Smaller firms typically have smaller budgets, but more choose to make leadership development a priority. While 44 percent is not much to brag about, the discrepancy is enough to illustrate that small and medium enterprises can, and do, take on leadership development in an effective, proactive manner.

The reason could be as simple as they care more. A 2011 poll of small business owners in Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, and Calgary found that upwards of 66 percent described themselves as “very happy.” According to Alec Morley, Senior Vice President for Small Business Banking at TD Canada Trust, “Many people dream of being their own boss and owning their own business one day, so it’s no surprise that so many small business owners are happy where they are right now.” And when business owners are happy and optimistic, they spend more.  More than 96 percent of small business owners say the top benefits are a sense of personal accomplishment and the opportunity to help customers.  Good leadership is vital to both of these goals.

The sense of personal achievement and “ownership” can be fostered in companies big and small.  Leadership determines how people feel when they do their job, how well they do it, and if they continue to work for the company.  Leadership influences the bottom line of every company. Leadership will be a determining factor in the current economy.

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Michael Gallagher

Mike Gallagher, President of Michael Gallagher Advisory, has spent the past 20 years helping small business owners and managers develop and implement strategic business plans, achieve sustainable, targeted growth and solve the problems that keep them up at night.