The survival of an organization often depends on its developing effective leaders. Certainly, formal types of management development efforts (training programs, for example) play an important role in leadership development. But job experiences and assignments are also crucial to
managerial development and career success (McCauley & Brutus, 1998). Because the workplace environment continues to change (more global competition, downsizing, decentralization, and technological innovations, for example), it’s plausible that the experiences that managers see as
key to their own leadership development are also changing. This seems especially likely given the fact that about 45 percent of all net additions to the labor force in the 1990s were nonwhite employees and almost two-thirds were female (Cox, 1994). Although there aren’t exact figures
on the size of the pool of potential executives, it’s safe to assume that this pool has grown much more diverse.

The research project documented in this report builds on and extends CCL’s earlier work in this area (McCall et al., 1988) and has its own goals.

It is designed to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the significant events from which African American managers learn and
  2. Are the key events and lessons learned different for African American managers than
    for white managers?
  3.  Are there new experiences or lessons reported since the original 1980s work?

In replicating the earlier research using a sample derived from a more diverse workforce, this project aims to assist scholars and organizational leaders responsible for managerial development to better understand the experiences and lessons that managers in underrepresented groups
see as key to their own leadership development. It also aims to help determine if there are new or additional key events and lessons that were not reported in the earlier research. Additionally, it explores the effect that a manager’s race or ethnicity has on career experience and how a manager
might develop as a result of those experiences.

Contributing Author

Christina A. Douglas is a former research associate at the Center for Creative Leadership. During her tenure at CCL, she conducted research in the areas of management development, diversity, and developmental relationships. She holds Ph.D. in organizational behavior and human resources from Purdue University.

Published: April 2003
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