Michigan builds leadership inside the organization.

Author:Patrick, Bill
Position::Michigan Department of Human Services, Development Dimensions International, Leadership Academy

Imagine the looming threat of 75 percent of your top leaders retiring in the next few years. That is the challenge the Leadership Academy was created to meet.


In 2001, the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) projected that about 150 of its top leaders would be eligible for retirement within the next five years. A succession plan was needed to build leadership bench strength from inside the organization. Partnering with Development Dimensions International (DDI), a consulting organization with expertise in identifying and developing exceptional leadership talent, DHS created its Leadership Academy.

The approach of the Leadership Academy is to select high-potential leadership candidates and accelerate their development over two years to prepare them to step into high-level jobs. This differs from the traditional approach in which management grooms several people to replace a particular high-level executive contemplating retirement. The Leadership Academy approach creates a pool of leaders who are developed, but not designated, for a particular position. This allows the organization to build leaders prepared to step up to the plate as needed.

Selecting the Right People

Eligibility is limited to employees already in management or professional positions. Applicants are asked to review a "realistic job preview" that describes high-level jobs at DHS. They then complete an online "ideal job inventory," which helps them see how their ideal job compares with high-level jobs at DHS. If they still would like to apply after this self-assessment, they submit a self-nomination form. The selection process has four components:

  1. Situational judgment inventory -- a one-hour test that measures leadership judgment and provides an indicator of leadership potential

  2. Experience profile -- A written exercise where candidates describe how they have demonstrated leadership competencies

  3. An interview with a panel of top leaders

  4. Reference checks

    After the first two steps, the pool is reduced to 40-60 candidates, who move into the interview phase. DHS executives review the scores of all candidates interviewed and make a final selection of Leadership Academy members. About 20 new members are selected each year.

    Challenging Developmental Opportunities

    The academy begins with a multi-rater assessment where each new member, his or her manager, direct-report employees, and peers assess the member on 15 Leadership Academy competencies...

To continue reading