Case Study

Creating an Organization-Wide Leadership Strategy

The Problem

As part of an HR organization redesign process, a global steel manufacturer identified leadership capability as a critical area of focus for the central HR group. Needs analysis in the HR design stage had identified weak leadership as a significant barrier to growth — without the leaders to embed in acquisitions, the company was unable to make the acquisitions it needed to meet growth targets. Additionally, existing businesses struggled to retain good leaders who saw no path for development and advancement, negatively impacting current operations.

While there were a few leadership initiatives, they were isolated and not aligned to any particular leadership model. Some parts of the organization had leaders participate in external courses, another had developed an internal program based on one leadership expert’s model, yet another sponsored coaching for leaders they viewed as possible successors to key leaders, and corporate sponsored some training based on off-the-shelf content. 

Both business and HR executives knew that in order to be able to execute their strategy, a consistent leadership model was needed that communicated and reinforced the key elements that led to their success. The leadership framework would provide the foundation for consistent programming and an enterprise-wide approach to developing top talent.

The Solution

In parallel with the implementation of the new HR operating model, the CHRO asked RBL to leverage their existing knowledge of the organization to support the development of a leadership strategy that would include both an organization-wide leadership competency model and a strategic 4-year plan to build leadership capability.

RBL began by engaging with the executive leadership team to translate their strong firm brand into differentiating leadership behaviors in an Executive Leadership Brand Workshop. After identifying those and integrating them with the leadership fundamentals (RBL Leadership Code®) in a way that resonated with the executive team, RBL developed a more detailed behavioral model with stratified descriptors for all levels of the organization. The top 50 leaders from across the organization’s different units were assessed and given feedback to focus their individual development. 

In parallel, RBL worked with the newly hired leader of the leadership COE to develop a draft 4-year plan. The COE and RBL leads used a participative process across all the businesses. These sessions, held with each of the businesses, shared the new leadership model, asked business leadership teams to lead out in specific ways, shared current state data on leadership capability, and collected input on development priorities for each business. This input formed the basis of the final 4-year plan that was shared and approved at the executive level. 

The Outcome

Two years later, even through the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been measurable progress. More than 150 leaders at multiple levels in the organization have received feedback and developmental coaching on leadership behaviors that are directly connected to delivering the results customers and owners expect — many for the first time in their careers. There is a cross-business process to identify and strategically develop the top talent needed to enable future growth, leading to better retention and improving the leadership capability needed to successfully integrate future acquisitions. The leadership competency model and the development strategy are foundations that all the businesses connect their leadership development efforts to, and the integrated, cross-business development programs are rolling out to support all the businesses in building leadership capability that will engage and inspire employees and enable growth.