How I made a difference: Leonie Lonton, global employee development director, Save the Children

We were aware that we needed to invest in developing our leaders, and that it was not just what they did that was important, but how they did it. We also wanted to look at motivation and at developing high-performance behaviours.

We began by identifying 14 leadership behaviours, then focused on five priority behaviours: communicating vision and strategic purpose, external orientation, managerial courage, delivery of results and building high performance teams. We did not want to turn out clones, as diversity is one of our real strengths, so our mantra was about offering our leaders a chance to “be themselves, with skill.”

We began a partnership with The Centre for High Performance Development to develop a programme. It focused initially on increasing the leadership effectiveness of our existing senior people, including the top team.

With psychometric assessment and 360-degree feedback followed by a six-day event, the programme offers participants the opportunity to increase their personal awareness, to hear and meet leaders from other organisations, step up to a challenging leadership role during observed experiential daily group work, and to receive daily feedback from trained facilitators and other participants. Participants keep a daily learning log of reflections, leading to a personal leadership development plan for implementation over a 12-month period.

We then turned our attention to our senior, nationally appointed staff working around the world. Using the same design principles, and with the addition of some management skills training sessions, we launched the senior management development programme in 2006.

And last year we were able to open up both programmes to our colleagues in the Save the Children Alliance family, forming a leadership academy to support our internal talent development within the wider organisation.

The leadership behaviours, like our values, are now increasingly embedded into the way we do things in Save the Children. And thanks to this initiative, we now know that it pays to be ambitious, and that with training and support, almost anyone with the right attitude can learn to facilitate and support their colleagues. It also brought home to us the importance of real ownership and role modelling from the top.

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