“Our leadership development and training programs push each and every delegate to gain a rigorous personal insight into what makes them tick and then, with that understanding of themselves, to stretch the boundaries of whats comfortable for them” (Leadership development – Leadership skills and training, 2008, Impact Factory). Leadership training through the organization stresses emotional rather than technical skills, unlike GE. Human perception, creativity and out-of the box thinking is what is defined as leadership skills by Impact Factory and by the companies that use its services to train new and older employees alike, employees defined as leaders, and lower level employees as well. Key to success for individuals and the organization as a whole include: “Determining how well you perceive whats going on around you…polishing interpersonal skills and communication skills” (Leadership development – Leadership skills and training, 2008, Impact Factory).
The influence of leadership theory of a great man approach seems to be seen at GE and the leadership theory of a participative and behavioral approach seems evident at Impact Factory — but did these approaches really inform the construction of the leadership programs or were theories used to justify the programs after they were created? GE, despite the actual structure of the program, pays a great deal of lip service on its website to the value of participation, of getting everyone on board, even though it is assumed that a single policy and approach is correct in terms of how to make GE products, and to be a GE employee. Leaders defined as exceptional from school and other places of work or generalist leaders, rather than employees who can give specific information from years at the company are valued in the GE leadership program. Impact Factory seems to reflect a participative approach that engenders communication and acute observation of individuals, but its philosophy is derived from acting skills and the arts, and then the approach is justified through managerial theory after the fact. For example, in one course the “One Day Public Body Language Course is designed to help delegates make the impact they want through awareness of their non-verbal communication, to feel more in control in a meeting or presentation situation, and to feel more confident and in charge of situations and working relationships” (Impact Factory, 2008).
Its stated ethos seems almost a direct rebuke to the Six Sigma approach: “The best systems, processes and measurements wont do it if people arent aligned, committed, on board and feeling confident and motivated. Theres something extra that develops peoples drive, dynamism and team spirit” (“Ethos,” 2008, the Impact Factor). It is also highly situational in its approach: “Impact Factorys work is all about people interacting with other people, and as such is definitely more than just training – its personal” (“Ethos,” 2008, the Impact Factor).
But does this academic rhetoric used to sell acting skills to businesses really form the basis the use of theater games and communication games in the organizations work? A comparison of the Impact Factorys leadership work with businesses and GEs approach yields clear differences in program philosophy and methodology, but not so much in its deployment of self-justifying language. This suggests that the philosophy used to sell leadership programs to the public and to employees may be present in the language of advertising, but have less to do with the construction of the actual programs themselves — programs defined by customer demand, creating a brand image, and the needs of the marketplace.
General Electric: Imagination at work. (2008). GE. Retrieved 1 Sept 2008. http://www.gepower.com/commitment/en/integrity.htm
Ethos. (2008). The Impact Factory. Retrieved 1 Sept 2008 at http://www.impactfactory.com/factory.shtml
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Leadership development – Leadership skills and training. (2008). Impact Factory. Retrieved 1 Sept 2008.
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