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
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.