How important are excellent leaders to Organizations? If you were to ask 3M CEO George Buckley, he’d say extremely important.



How important are excellent leaders to Organizations? If you were to ask 3M CEO George Buckley, he’d say extremely important. But he’d also say that excellent leaders don’t just pop up out of nowhere. A company has to cultivate leaders who have the skills and abilities to help it survive and thrive. And like a successful baseball team with strong performance statistics that has a player development plan in place, 3M has its own farm system. Except its farm system is designed to develop company leaders.

3M’s leadership development program is so effective that in 2010 it was number three on the list of Business Week’s “Top 20 Companies for leadership” and in 2009, Chief Executive magazine and Hay consulting Group named the company the best at developing future leaders. What is 3M’s leadership program all about? About 8 years ago, the company’s former CEO (Jim McNerney, who is now Boeing’s CEP) and his top team sent 18 months developing a new leadership model for the company. After numerous brainstorming sessions and much heated debate, the group finally agreed on six “ leadership attributes” that they believed were essential for the company to become skilled at executing strategy and being accountable. Those six attributes included the ability to “chart the course; energize and inspire others; demonstrate ethics, integrity and compliance; deliver results; raise the bar; and innovate resourcefully”. And now under Buckley’s guidance, the company is continuing and reinforcing its pursuits of leadership excellence with these six attributes. 

When asked about his views on leadership, Buckley said that he believes leaders differ from managers, “A leader is as much about inspiration as anything else. A manager is more about process”. He believes that the key to developing leaders is to focus on those things that can be developed-like strategic thinking. Buckley also believes that leaders should not be promoted up and through the organization too quickly. They need time to experience failures and what it takes to rebuild. 

Finally, when asked about his own leadership style, Buckley responded, “The absolutely best way for me to be successful is to have people working for me who are better. Having that kind of emotional self-confidence is vital to leaders. You build respect in those people because you admire that they do. Having built respect, you build trust. However hokey it sounds, it works”. And it must be working as the company was named the number one most admired company in the medical and other precision equipment division of Fortune’s most admired ranking for 2009.

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