Michael Campbell is a researcher with a bias for practicality.
A project to analyze leadership data for CCL clients in 2001 steered him into leadership research. Since then, he has worked extensively in the areas of senior executive leadership and talent management, and taken on projects as varied as the stress of leadership, corporate social responsibility and learning agility.
Michael is eager to put ideas — and research — into action, and he enjoys talking to clients, giving presentations and conducting workshops. He recently took on a role that splits his work equally between research projects and direct client work.
How does your dual role as part researcher/part trainer of programs build on what you’ve been doing at CCL for the last 12 or so years?
I think it’s a nice fit, because for me, it’s always been about how to apply research.
For a few years, I had been doing more classroom training and workshops, presenting research findings and working directly with clients. When the opportunity opened up to help support CCL’s growing business on the client side, I took it.
The role will help bring the research perspective directly into the classroom or client organization. I’ll also be able to have a greater understanding of what is going on and what is playing out for people in their jobs that will help me shape or translate our research, too. CCL has always had an “ideas into action” agenda; this 50/50 role is another way to make that work.
What is currently dominating your research plate?
We recently completed a study and report titled Developing Top Leaders for a Globalised Asia, based on five successful organizations with a strong presence in Singapore — British American Tobacco (BAT), CapitaLand, Olam, Singapore Prison Service and Unilever.
We’re currently conducting studies in India and South Africa on ‘top leadership’ that will replicate that research in other contexts. Next year, we’ll do the same type study with North American organizations. We’ll be able to see what’s similar and what’s different, what’s contextual and what’s universal. It’s pretty exciting.
What was most interesting or surprising about the top leadership study in Singapore?
Our focus was how to accelerate development. We know a lot about how development works, but what works best and what works fastest? We came up with the “5 paradoxes of accelerating leadership development.”
For example, to accelerate development you need to slow down a bit. A lot of time these organizations are growing so fast, their talent is so eager for growth and promotions, they are moving into different roles very quickly. People are not given enough time in a single role to really be able to see impact of their decisions. And ultimately to be a senior leader, you are paid based on your ability to make sound decisions. These younger leaders don’t know if they are doing that or not.
Another thing was really interesting. One of the struggles that we have in the West is, how do you get leaders to develop other leaders? In the organizations we studied in Singapore there was much more of an assumption or understanding that this is part of a leader’s job. It seemed very natural in what they did and in the language they used.
What else is on the horizon?
Watch out for a couple of white papers later this year. One is about a leader’s mindset — how our beliefs drive behavior, tools, tips, practices. The other is on the state of mentoring for senior executives — how they mentor others and work with mentors themselves.