Can businesses survive and thrive in the coming decade without seriously committing to
developing leaders throughout the ranks? While we often hear CEOs bemoan the lack of
leadership capacity in subordinates, too often external leadership training programs and
executive coaching are limited to the executive suite and department directors. Funds for
external leadership development resources are stretched thin today, and thus developing your
own leaders is an effective answer to creating greater leadership depth and breadth in your
organization. One cost effective approach to growing your own leaders is implementing a
program of Leadership Study Groups led by your own executives.
At Care Communications, Inc. (CARE) every headquarters employee is included in Leadership
Study Groups, which are similar to book clubs. At CARE the leadership development program
primarily focuses on Systems‐Based Leadership™ as described in our book Leading a Business in
Anxious Times: A Systems Approach to Becoming More Effective in the Workplace. Every
employee is expected to learn how anxiety in the workplace impacts business outcomes.
Through group discussions participants learn about universal patterns of emotional behavior.
They learn that leadership is a relationship process that increases one’s capacity to manage
one’s own anxiety, work collaboratively and respectfully with colleagues, clients, and vendors
and express one’s creativity in responding to business challenges.
The program is simple to launch. Each employee is invited to join a study group that meets for
one hour a month. The books and articles to be read are selected by the executive team and the
meetings are co‐led by the CEO and the President. Usually the group is asked to read one or two
chapters or articles a month and come prepared to discuss what resonated for them in the
assigned reading. The resulting discussions stimulate everyone’s thinking and help employees
and executives get to know one another at a deeper level.
Introductory groups begin with Extraordinary Relationships by Roberta M. Gilbert, M.D., which
usually is completed in about four months. The employees then join regular leadership study
groups that read a variety of books and articles on systems‐based leadership and other business
leadership concepts. Groups complete one or two books a year.
The program, which began in the early 2000s has been received enthusiastically by employees
and has contributed significantly to building a culture of leadership at CARE. All members of the
CARE team know that they can and are expected to be leaders, no matter what their position on
the organization chart. Beginning in 2011, the program will be extended to all field staff, making
use of remote technology to support the monthly meetings. Meetings will be co‐led by
executives and practice line leaders, who have found that the study groups have really changed
how they interact with their staff and want to see field staff benefit from leadership
development as well.
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