Competent business and public service leaders prepared to run global organizations are in short supply and are in demand as never before. Strategies to prepare today’s managers for future leadership roles must be crafted carefully and cannot be left to chance.

Coursework and training are not enough. Organizations must create systems and processes that enable managers to learn leadership from experience. They must provide them with a clear sense of what needs to be learned, surround them with people who support their efforts to develop themselves, and promote effective developmental practices, such as reflection, dialogue, intentional goal-setting and feedback.

These insights about development are derived from the Lessons of Experience research and other studies conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®). Our findings have been validated and extended by recent research conducted in partnership with organizations in China, India, Singapore and the United States.

CCL researchers have identified five basic experiences that deliver valuable leadership learning. These “basic five” include experiences that involve bosses and superiors, turnarounds, increases in scope, horizontal moves and new initiatives. But our research also shows that some developmental experiences are more country-specific. We have identified the top two developmental experiences for each of the four countries in our studies. Mistakes in China and the United States, crossing culture events in India, and stakeholder engagements in Singapore are examples of these “plus two” experiences by country.

Although many different lessons can be learned from each of the experiences cited in our study, some patterns of learning singularly link particular experiences to specific lessons. For example, “managing direct reports” is a lesson commonly learned from bosses and superiors and from an increase in job scope. Other patterns of learning are unique to a particular country. For example, only Indian managers report learning “confidence” from bosses and superiors, new initiatives, and personal experiences.

To address the pressing need for future leadership talent, organizations must build systems and processes that help upcoming leaders learn from their experiences more intentionally and systematically

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