Below are lessons that RWJF has learned about how to run an effective leadership development program.
- Be clear about the purpose of a leadership program. Determine whether the program is focused primarily on developing leadership capacities within selected individuals or whether it is focused on developing a national leadership presence in the field. The answer to this question should drive the design of the program. (See Program Results on Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse.)
- Establish a core curriculum. Articulate the knowledge and skills participants should gain as a result of their participation in the program. These knowledge and skill sets should be documented in a core curriculum for participants, and the program should structure its activities to assure that all participants work to the standards specified in the curriculum. There is a tension between the need for some standardization of the curriculum and the individual resources, interests and culture of each program site. Providing opportunities for inter-site discussion and observation could encourage sharing of problem solving strategies and decrease cross-site variation. (See Program Results on Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse [also from an internal report on RWJF's human capital programs].)
- Provide direction to applicants on how to conceive of and create a fellowship project. Participants in one program liked the challenge of having to create their projects and felt that it inspired growth that would be useful in their roles as a leader. But some would have preferred a set of basic requirements-things that had to be included in their projects. (See Program Results on Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse.)
- Involve the participant's home organization early in the leadership development program. Involving the participant's organization, especially a supervisor, would help the home organization support the fellowship. (See Program Results on Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse.)
- Be flexible in the modes of training. Successful training is ongoing and makes the best use of technological advancements, such as distance learning. (See Program Results on ID# 030456.)
- Use work-based learning so that students can apply their skills in the work environment. Work-based learning is more likely to produce lasting behavior changes than training in a classroom environment. (See Program Results on ID# 033489.)
- Provide modest financial resources that can make a big impact. Even modest financial resources help future leaders try out ideas and explore paths that would not have been open to them otherwise. The luxury of time for self-exploration is a key component of leadership development. (See Program Results on Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse.)
- Target recruitment to the intended audience. Identify the populations to target (they may be distinguished by professional discipline, economic background, race/ethnicity or some other characteristic), and make a concerted effort to market to those communities. Package or present the marketing materials in such a way as to distinguish it from similar programs. Advertise in appropriate publications and make presentations to professional organizations. (See Program Results on Executive Nurse Fellows, Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program and Health Policy Fellows Program.)
- The best recruiters for a fellowship program are the participants and alumni of the program itself. One program found that contact with a current participant or alumnus, or recognition given to program participants or alumnae influenced many of the applicants each year. One program's staff now budgets funds for alumni to visit schools or conferences as representatives of the program. (See Program Results on Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program.)
- Leadership development programs can have an impact for candidates even if they are not selected for awards. The application process itself can help the program achieve its overall objectives-by awakening interest in the field among individuals from diverse backgrounds, by setting the stage on which potential leaders forge professional bonds with mentors and professional organizations as they prepare their applications. (See Program Results on Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program.)
- Provide mentors to guide participants. The mentor-protégé relationship is one of the most valuable elements of these leadership development programs. When these relationships work, they provide enormous learning experiences for participants and access to a network of other leaders across the country. (See Program Results on Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse and Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program.)
- Identify mentors who will help fellows realize their leadership potential. Mentors are more likely to be good matches for fellows if they:
While geographic proximity of mentors to fellows is helpful, it is not an essential consideration. (See Program Results on Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse.)
- Help fellows develop realistic expectations about the guidance mentors can provide.
- Hold a strong interest in at least one of the fellow's areas of effort.
- Help potential fellows understand program expectations.
- Are flexible in their relationship with the fellow, allowing for changes in the relationship during the course of the fellowship.
- Give participants some control in recruiting their own mentors. One program office found they underestimated the difficulty of attracting mentors and making matches between mentors and fellows. After encountering a number of unsuccessful matches, the staff switched strategy to give the participants more leeway in recruiting their own mentors. When the national program office was responsible for the match, there was a tendency for the fellow "to give up" more quickly on the relationship. (See Program Results on Executive Nurse Fellows.)
- Clearly communicate the expectations of the mentoring program. One program started with a "hands-off" approach to mentorships, thinking flexibility would encourage the development of relationships. However, many mentors reported that they expected more structure and guidance. Mentors in another program felt that a clearer set of expectations would have helped them assess the progress of their protégés. Clear guidelines for mentors, or perhaps even a training module for mentors, would improve the chances that mentoring relationships are fruitful. (See Program Results on Executive Nurse Fellows and Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse; also mentioned in an internal report on RWJF's human capital programs.)
- Compensate mentors so they can devote adequate time to their protégés. Mentors who receive a stipend for the time they spend with the fellows are freed up to devote themselves to the effort in a way that they might not be able to do otherwise. (See Program Results on Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse.)
Networking and Annual Meetings
- Offer networking opportunities. Leaders need linkages and forums to exchange ideas, forge actions and increase influence in their fields. Develop databases and other mechanisms to follow up with participants during and after the program. Use online networking tools (Web sites, e-mail, etc.) to keep in contact. (See Program Results on Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse, Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program, ID# 030456 and ID# 048829; also mentioned in an internal report on RWJF's human capital programs.)
- Be prepared for tensions and challenges when bringing together people from diverse backgrounds. RWJF's leadership programs have typically recruited individuals from varied racial, ethnic, economic, educational and professional backgrounds. While such diversity brings a welcome mixture of viewpoints, it also poses significant challenges. The staff, mentors and participants in one program found it difficult to talk about and reconcile widely different racial and ethnic backgrounds, professional and life experiences and professional points of view. Some participants found it difficult to find peers with whom they could collaborate or develop relationships. (See Program Results on Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse.)
- Give diverse groups of leaders a chance to learn from each other by visiting one another's home organizations. Developing leaders may appreciate one another's areas of knowledge more if they have a chance to visit one another's work place. (See Program Results on Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse.)
- Involve program participants in planning and running annual meetings. One program found that meetings improved when the fellowship awardees participated in planning the agendas. The best meetings were those in which everyone had both a teaching and a learning role. (See Program Results on Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse.)
- Establish an advisory committee that plays an integral role. In some programs of this nature, the role of the advisory committee is limited to selecting the fellows and providing overall guidance. The Executive Nurse Fellows program found that having a more actively engaged advisory committee contributes to the program's success. Advisory committee members participate in seminars, recruit seminar speakers and mentors, encourage promising nurse executives to apply and make public appearances to increase the program's visibility. (See Program Results on Executive Nurse Fellows and Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse.)
- Articulate the term of service for advisory committee members. A finite term of service provides programs with fresh ideas and increased involvement of advisory committee members. (From an internal report on RWJF's human capital programs.)