This fall, Transformation Canada is launching a new venture to equip today’s best and brightest to become tomorrow’s marketplace leaders. The program is called Leadership Edge, an accelerated 9-month pathway for leadership development that applies kingdom principles with real world experience. The goal of the program is to help emerging leaders to identify their passions, sharpen their skills, and step into their destiny as leaders in the marketplace.
We sat down with Leadership Edge founders and facilitators Glem Dias and Jim Foster, to find out more about what this program has to offer.
First off, how would you describe the Leadership Edge program?
Jim Foster: I like to explain it as a journey of discovering and developing your own passion and gifts, so you become transformational in leadership. It involves teaching, but a big part is also mentoring – walking with others who can help you discover your destiny as a transformational Kingdom leader.
Glem Dias: Number one, it’s for people who have a passion and anointing for leadership. And when I talk about leadership, this is about leading people and transforming organizations. In Ed Silvoso’s book Ekklesia, he talks about the five percent [who lead people at this level]. So that’s the target audience.
How is Leadership Edge different from other leader training programs?
GD: It integrates transformational principles with strategies from the top 10% of Fortune 500 and how they develop executive leaders. It offers tools and proven interventions that are only made available to the top 1% of employees at Fortune 500 organizations. In addition, it draws on insights from coaching over 500 emerging leaders and is based on an award-winning methodology and practices published in industry journals.
Many companies take the easy way out by sending people for a one-week program or two-day conference or a seminar, which is nice, but it doesn’t stick. It takes commitment, investment and accountability to build leadership as a strategic asset.
To do this right it has to be comprehensive and it has to be sustained. We base Leadership Edge on a model called 70/20/10. This means 70% of the pathway is experience-based learning; 20% is relationship-based coaching, networking and mentoring; and 10% is formal training or education.
The program takes place over nine months, so it’s not an event. It’s a journey.
JF: Leadership can’t grow simply by going to workshops. It also can’t grow just by throwing a young leader into the deep water and seeing if they’ll swim. It can only grow through a multi-faceted journey where they are free to innovate and take risks, and where experienced mentors provide guidance to help them grow.
In life, the best learning opportunities mostly come from experience and relationships. Leadership Edge provides the young leader long-term mentorship and active learning projects to help them apply what they learn and truly become transformational. This is unique among leadership training programs.
So Leadership Edge creates more of a lifestyle of leadership experience and mentorship, instead of short-term seminars and conferences. Since this is longer term, how much is the sponsor involved?
GD: From beginning to end. The people we’re looking to attract are potential succession candidates for leadership roles within a company or non-profit. So we work with the candidate’s sponsor to form a development plan that the sponsor would be involved in. They would provide input, support the execution, drive accountability, and provide feedback. It’s a total collaboration.
JF: The program is tailored to what’s going on in the company or non-profit, so it’s critical that the sponsor is involved to help identify the right growth opportunities for the candidate.
Tell me a bit about your own journey to what is now Leadership Edge. How did you arrive here?
JF: I started building teams in outreach ministries here in Canada, working with cross-cultural communities. Then I went to the Middle East and eventually helped launch a consultancy for leadership coaching and organizational change management in Dubai, UAE. We helped Fortune 500 companies in the Middle East, and my former colleagues are still serving companies there. I then returned to Canada to guide leadership development in an international non-profit based out of Toronto.
Soon my work focused on developing leaders within the Greater Toronto Area. Glem and I met at the Transformation Canada GTA Leaders meetings in downtown Toronto. We shared our stories and realized that God was leading us to combine our passion for leadership development and our interest in transformation. We wanted to create a truly transformational model of leadership training. So we began to pray and talk about possibilities, and Leadership Edge was born from that.
GD: I discovered my passion for leadership when I was the president of the student council at my university in India. I said to myself, ‘this is such a cool role I would love to do this for a living’. This experience sowed the seeds for a rewarding career of developing leaders. In the mid 90s I was in Human Resources at Morgan Stanley India, but started creating strategies for leadership programs as a passion. It was fun for me; it impacted lives and was well-received, so I kept on doing it in. My passion grew, and in 2004 I moved out of HR to join Walmart Canada to focus full-time on leadership development. From there I moved to Pitney Bowes with a mandate to develop leaders on a global scale.
I now run a leadership strategy practice and teach leadership at the Schulich Executive Education Centre, York University. Looking back, I can see how the Lord has guided my journey all along. I have experienced God’s favour in extraordinary ways that have led me to live out my dreams and passions.
So you bring a spiritual component and a practical component to this training, making it a holistic experience. Tell me a little bit about leadership as Christians envision it, or those companies and corporations who are outside of those top percentages. What’s been missing in terms of leadership development?
JF: One of the reasons I feel so excited about this kind of a journey for young leaders is my passion for watching them discover their life calling and destiny. I want to help them find that combination of leadership hardwiring and skill that God has put into them, and the destiny of how God has prepared and called them to lead. Making that connection would help anyone wake up in the morning excited to get going. Most leadership programs don’t go down to that level.
The spiritual part is that kingdom principles just work. From a leadership model, I mean, believe in him or not, Jesus was a great leader. He was selfless, passionate and knew his destiny. He was truly client-centred, focusing totally on the needs of others. What he modeled, I believe, is a core piece of what’s missing in many leaders today — things like humility, compassion, influence, and true authority.
Is Leadership Edge accessible to those who aren’t coming from a faith-based perspective?
GD: Yes. 95% of my work in the marketplace is in a secular environment. I think a good example of this is my daughter’s high school. She goes to a Christian school, but the school is open to anyone attending there. You don’t have to be a Christian to be in the school. Leadership Edge is based on Christian principles, but if somebody who isn’t Christian wants to join for leadership development, they are most welcome.
Most people I meet around the world like Christian values and principles. Again, looking at Jesus objectively, he is a perfect leadership model. He’s transformative, disruptive, courageous, inspiring, and full of good character qualities. The program is based on kingdom principles. We just model the principles.
You know, I heard that 25,000 employees were asked, “What’s the number one thing you look for in a leader”? The greatest response was that they want to be inspired. Those same people were asked, “Do you consider your current leader to be inspiring?” Only 10% said yes. So people are hungry for this.
Is there a difference between being an innovator and being a transformer?
GD: Yes. If you go back ten years ago, change was a big thing. Today change is normal.
If you say you’re innovative today, well fine, that’s part of the game. Even transformation is not enough; you need breakthrough transformation. You need to completely change a business model because your model has probably been around for 15, 20, or 50 years. You need to have a breakthrough. I know the word ‘disruptive’ can have a negative connotation, but what you need is a game-changing approach or a new model. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, don’t expect a different result. Breakthrough thinking and disruption is changing an industry model. And part of the reason why companies rarely get to this kind of transformational thinking is because the leadership has hit a ceiling. They try to do the best they can with the model they have, instead of questioning or changing the model.
You need to have people who are thinking 10 years out. As a CEO, if you get caught up managing and not leading, then you’re not doing your job. You should be spending a fair amount of your time shaping the future. Some of the most successful companies right now have given these young leaders a chance to expand their wings and take the core vision and expand it. This is what we want to come from Leadership Edge.
How can someone apply for Leadership Edge training?
JF: An interested candidate can contact us and fill out a self-nomination form that we’ll send them. It’s a survey, where the potential candidate rates themselves on their capabilities in certain areas. Their sponsor also fills out a similar questionnaire on their leadership and right from the start the sponsor is advocating for the candidate. We vette the applications to see which ones are appropriate or timely for the program. Those who are selected are notified and enrolled. Our first year will start in late October 2017 and run until June of 2018. We’re looking forward to working with our first cohort of emerging transformational leaders!