raftingHigher-ambition leaders invest a disproportionate amount of their time in forming an aligned core team at the top and in developing an extended group that can provide distributed leadership across the organization, both now and into the future. Though they themselves are strong individuals, they use their strengths to develop their own teams and hundreds of other leaders to build a culture of commitment and performance throughout the company.

To build such a leadership system, higher-ambition leaders:

  • Build a true team at the top
  • Align down-the-line leadership
  • Drive career development
  • Develop next-generation leadership

For example, when Val Gooding took over as CEO of BUPA she found that, “There were really great people but also quite inadequate people. It was bit directionless, really.” Part of this came from a poor track record with external hires. Gooding built her senior team around a number of the strong existing players and carefully brought in a number of external people over time. In the end, it was about 60% internal people and 40% new hires from outside.

To align down the leadership, Gooding engaged all of the U.K.-based employees in a one-day program called “One Life.” As she described it to us, “We said that making this business successful is about you bringing to it your personal attributes and motivation. It was all about how you’ve got one life, and you’ve got things you bring to your life and to your work, and so on. We want to help maximize the contributions you’re making in your job.” The purpose was to tap into people’s personal aspirations and align them with the business.

This initiative served as the backdrop for a training program for all managers across the business than ran for more than 18 months. Gooding participated in every session. Her extraordinary level of personal commitment communicated clearly the importance she placed on developing leadership throughout the company.

In this section of the site you will find posts, case studies, and other resources for human resource development tagged as follows:

  • Human Resources

  • Employees

  • Employee Engagement


Search on any of the above terms or simply “Human Resource Development” to find assets and insights to draw upon as you pursue your organization’s Higher Ambition. Some suggestions to get you started are below.

In this Good Job Strategy TedX Talk, Zeynep Ton reveals how companies such as Trader Joe’s and Costco can both compete on price and train and reward their employees at higher levels than their competitors.

One of the nation’s leading management experts, Edward Lawler, shows what it really takes to make a great organization-put people first in Treat People Right: How Organizations and Employees Can Create a Win/Win Relationship. How do organizations move beyond merely acknowledging that “human capital” is their greatest asset, and actually implement practices that create true benefits for both employees and the organizations? In this book, Edward Lawler shows how companies can “treat people right” by doing more than simply ensuring good working conditions and good pay. He shows how to build a special relationship between individuals and the organizations they work for-a relationship in which good performance at all levels of the organization pays off for both the company and the individual.

In his time-tested approach to organizational success, Harvard Business School’s Michael Beer integrates knowledge from the fields of leadership, strategic management, human resource management, organization design and organization development and change to show how a company can be transformed to achieve sustained high commitment and high performance in High Commitment, High Performance: How to Build a Resilient Organization for Sustained Advantage. Anchoring his approach on leaders who have the right values, Michael Beer shows how to weave together a complete system that will ultimately spell business success—no matter how challenging the economic climate. To build such a system, leaders will have to make courageous and principled choices about how to organize, manage, and lead the firm.

What really sets the best managers above the rest? In The Progress Principle,  Theresa Amabile and Steven Kramer argue that its their power to build a cadre of employees who have great inner work lives – consistently positive emotions; strong motivation; and favorable perceptions of the organization, their work, and their colleagues. Through rigorous analysis of extensive employees diaries, they explain how managers can foster progress and enhance inner work life every day. The book shows how to remove obstacles to progress, including meaningless tasks and toxic relationships. It also explains how to activate two forces that enable progress: (1) catalysts-events that directly facilitate project work, such as clear goals and autonomy-and (2) nourishers-interpersonal events that uplift workers, including encouragement and demonstrations of respect and collegiality. In this short video, Professor Amabile explains The Progress Principle.

Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath research into what makes for a consistently high-performing workforce has found that thriving employees are key to overall performance. In Creating Sustainable Performance they define a thriving workforce is one in which employees are not just satisfied and productive but also engaged in creating the future—the company’s and their own. Thriving employees have a bit of an edge—they are highly energized—but they know how to avoid burnout. Across industries and job types, the authors found that people who fit their description of thriving demonstrated 16% better overall performance (as reported by their managers) and 125% less burnout (self-­reported) than their peers. They were 32% more committed to the organization and 46% more satisfied with their jobs. They also missed much less work and reported significantly fewer doctor visits, which meant health care savings and less lost time for the company.