The role of "development executive" at the United Nations can mean something much different than it does in the private sector. As an outside consultant and executive coach leading values-driven leadership programs at the UN in New York for more than 3 years, it's fascinating to see how the different meanings play out.
There are UN members who are in charge of developing a country or region economically or politically. They implement executive training programs and executive mentoring while they balance political hot potatoes. They discover pretty quickly that even the best executive coaching courses can't deliver results if they only deal with one leg of the 3-legged UN stool, economics, while it disregards the other 2, human rights and security.
Likewise, too many executive leadership programs in the private sector disregard internal and external cultures. By not incorporating a more holistic accounting for culture, executive training programs often fall short of delivering on hoped-for results. The actual results tend to look like dusty reports in the backs of drawers and even greater skepticism about what's possible.
I work with other UN leaders developing programs for peace and security and others developing systems that better uphold human rights. Especially the human rights leaders tend to be stronger in the intuitive aspects of leadership and they often inherently know that they can't meet their human rights objectives as long as executive management training has no compassion built into it.
But, much like in the private sector, even though people on the ground know instinctively that they want their values upheld whether they're producing widgets or social programs, executive leadership development programs have routinely squeezed out the time and attention necessary to develop those very important pillars of leadership.
In terms of security, one of the biggest problems with executive mentoring is an over-emphasis on risk aversion. In fact, a recent leadership study done at the UN has shown that more lives were lost in recent genocides due to so-called leaders relying on risk assessment and protocol than were lost under the leadership of those who were more values-driven in their decision-making.
Great leaders risk. And fail. And risk again. Executive leadership programs have to allow more latitude for the benefits of risking and for the benefits of action taken on data from the gut being balanced with data from the field.
Other UN colleagues are developing their junior colleagues through trainings not unlike corporate executive leadership training. Some of the grumblings about executive management trainings is that people feel that they're being trained to follow rules and protocol more than they are to make the difference they came to make. The UN dilemma holds a good lesson for CEO coaching because good executive leadership coaching has to accommodate the individual values of the leader him/herself and also the values of all stakeholders. It's no wonder that now that we are able to quantify values through a Values Assessment process developed by Richard Barrett, we can measure what the best of humanity has always known: values are valuable in every sense of the word.
Unfortunately, executive coaching services too often leave the value of values out of the equation. An executive benefits most when coaching happens over a broad time span so that whatever can be gained from the executive training programs or executive coaching programs can be deeply integrated with personal and cultural values.
Other people I work with at the UN, particularly those working with the Global Compact, are developing executive leadership programs to empower local business people to lead the way in their own economies. It's especially interesting to watch how values impact things at that level because executive mentoring is happening cross-culturally.
Colleagues have told me that most tribunals that are held to resolve disputes are primarily about values clashes. Training for CEO posiitons must evolve to be more inclusive of values because the world is getting smaller and people are getting clearer about how they will and won't be compromised. Make sure your executive coaching programs are intelligent about how they capitalize on values because if they aren't getting the values piece right, you'll ultimately waste time and money on executive benefits that don't end up benefitting even the executive him/herself, let alone the team or the rest of the world.