Bringing the Five Practices to Life

Getting Ahead of a Global Leadership Crisis: A Powerful Partnership Shows How It's Done

The world is experiencing a global leadership crisis and organizations in every industry—human services included—are feeling its effects. In fact, 89 percent of organizations say leadership is a top and pressing problem yet only a disproportionate few have a functioning leadership pipeline. One striking exception is LeadingAge Indiana, an organization that took action to get ahead of the crisis rather than fall victim to its consequences.

LeadingAge Indiana, part of a nationwide association dedicated to making America a better place to grow old, is a membership organization of nonprofit providers of long term care, social services, and housing for the elderly in Indiana. It provides its members with education, group services, up-to-date information, networking, and leadership development, as well as prompt, efficient service for its professional staff.

Like so many other organizations, LeadingAge was facing an exodus of experienced and knowledgeable leaders as growing numbers of Baby Boomers retired. And as the aging Baby Boom generation grew, the demand for elderly care was continuing to rise as well. Amidst this confluence of change, association leaders realized the urgency of examining the pipeline of leaders in the member organizations they support. They found that few had a bench of leaders who were ready to take the helm as experienced leaders retired. In addition, most organizations didn’t have the budget or capacity to implement in-house leadership development programs.

A Proactive Approach to Get Ahead of a Leadership Crisis
In 2014, LeadingAge Indiana formed a task force to identify how other LeadingAge associations across the nation were supporting leader development with the goal of creating an industry-specific, leadership development program of its own. They looked at courses offered, training session frequency, program components (e.g., coaching), and content—specifically custom content versus purchased content. After finding considerable variability, they decided to base their program on a tried-and-true, research-based leadership model—The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®—supplemented by customized program components. With over 30 years of research and validated across multiple industries (including healthcare) and countries around the world, The Leadership Challenge now serves as the foundation for all of the associations’ efforts to develop the next generation of LeadingAge Indiana leaders.

Program Goals
The task force began its work by crafting high-level goals for the program that would serve to elevate individual leaders, their organizations, and result in better care for the seniors they serve. Incorporating insights they learned from their research, including interviews with leaders in senior care organizations across the state of Indiana, they identified the following:
  • Inspire a passion for personal and professional development (e.g., lifelong learning) 
  • Develop individual leadership skills 
  • Elevate the performance and service levels of participating organizations 
  • Deepen peer connections and networks across the association 
  • Increase the number of potential successors within the association and industry 
A Powerful Partnership
To accomplish the above goals, LeadingAge Indiana looked to FlashPoint to help custom-design a multifaceted, highly interactive nine-month leadership development program, LEADERSHIPVIP, based on the two-day The Leadership Challenge® Workshop. After a rigorous and selective application process—including a resume, essays about their leadership and commitment to aging and human services, two letters of professional reference, and a commitment form—I had the pleasure of taking 27 current and emerging leaders from 16 organizations in Indiana’s human services industry through the LEADERSHIPVIP Program. Organizations represented included those focused on a specific aspect of senior care (e.g. dementia support) as well as those providing a full continuum of services (e.g., independent and assisted living as well as dementia support).

Program components included:
  • Pre- and Post-360-Degree Competency Assessments: We used the LPI®: Leadership Practices Inventory® to determine how frequently leaders demonstrate the 30 leadership behaviors associated with The Five Practices, and to identify development opportunities for each participant. 
  • Individual and Group Coaching Sessions: Offering participating leaders the opportunity for personalized guidance, we were able to work with them one-to-one to interpret their LPI assessment results, create individual development plans, focus on goals, and refine their leadership visions. Group coaching then provided leaders an opportunity for a shared experience and to inspire fellow learners as they all worked toward fulfilling their visions and accomplishing their goals. 
  • Classroom and Virtual Learning Sessions: Leaders learned about The Five Practices over four half-day classroom sessions spaced four to six weeks apart. They engaged in a variety of activities and exercises to develop their leadership skills and build strong relationships with their peers. Between classroom sessions, virtual webinars were conducted via Adobe Connect, allowing participants the opportunity to share their successes and challenges as they worked to apply The Five Practices back on the job. In addition, we incorporated a variety of supporting materials from The Leadership Challenge library available on the website , The Leadership Challenge® Practice Book , etc. to help leaders delve even deeper into the Practice areas discussed during the classroom sessions. 
  • Action-Learning Project: Participants practiced the skills they were learning as they led a real-life project to benefit their organization or an organization in their community. 
  • Capstone Event: To cap-off the program, a two-hour gathering brought participants together to celebrate the successes of their transformation, share individual learning, and continue to network with peers. 
Measured Success, Lasting Impact
Over the nine months we spent together—in coaching calls and in-person sessions—I heard truly inspiring stories about how these leaders were applying what they were learning to improve their leadership and the lives of the people they serve. I saw every participant demonstrate greater competence, increased confidence, and a passion for the visions they created for themselves and their organizations. As one leader put it, “This was an amazing journey for me. I benefited in so many ways. I gained a lot more confidence as a leader!” But leaders aren’t the only ones who benefit from leadership training. We know that when leaders are competent and confident they also are able to develop competent and confident followers. And when employees feel competent, confident, valued, and supported they are much more willing to give of themselves. Participants’ team members became more engaged and demonstrated deeper commitment to and ownership of personal and team results. In the end, they also began demonstrating more empathy, care, and concern for the elderly people they serve.

Program Metrics Measure Success
In addition to the many stories leaders shared and the way in which teams responded with heightened engagement and commitment to the mission, our program metrics also clearly demonstrate the powerful impact this LEADERSHIPVIP program has had. A follow-up LPI, administered nine months after the conclusion of the program, indicate that:
  •  75% of program participants improved in all Five Practices, on-average by 6.9%, with Inspire a Shared Vision increasing by 9.2%. Managers, too, reported increases across all Five Practice areas—by 15.2%. 
  • Direct reports reported observing increases in positive leadership behaviors across all Five Practice areas by 9.0%. 
At the 18-month mark after the program had concluded, 16 percent of participants had been promoted or moved into positions of greater responsibility.

Benefiting Individuals, Teams, Organizations, and Communities
In addition to individual leaders and teams, organizations that invest in leadership development also benefit. By building a reputation for having engaged employees and committed leaders, they can leverage that reputation to build a strong employment brand. In healthcare, this is especially relevant because a strong employment brand is a significant competitive advantage in an industry that is already experiencing a shortage of qualified talent.

When leaders grow, employees are engaged, the business is operating to its potential, and the industry overall benefits as well. As a result of the LEADERSHIPVIP program, the human services industry throughout Indiana has experienced a pay-it-forward effect of leadership development as leaders from 16 different organizations now speak a common leadership language and practice a common set of leadership behaviors that are based on world-class The Five Practices leadership model. And each year, as new people participate, the population of exemplary leaders in the human services industry will grow; and, that will lead to ever improving care and services for the elderly in Indiana.

Bill Mugavin, CPLP and a Certified-Master-in-Training of The Leadership Challenge, is a consultant at FlashPoint, a Global Training Partner of The Leadership Challenge committed to ensuring that leaders truly learn practical skills and improve leadership effectiveness—and that the organizations they serve see a strong return on investment. Bill can be reached at or at FlashPoint.