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Strengths-Based Leadership Development

In a recent large scale global survey of CEOs and senior executives 76 percent cited leadership development as important yet only 7 percent thought their organization was doing it effectively! No wonder we've got a leadership crisis!

There's a blizzard of theories, opinions, arcane thesis papers, inspirational quotations, training programs, books, frameworks, and approaches to leadership. What's sorely lacking is an integrated model that combines both "hard" management and "soft" leadership built on a base of solid research.

Zenger Folkman is the world's premier provider of leadership research, assessment, development, and implementation programs. The firm is best known for its unique evidence-driven, strengths-based system for developing extraordinary leaders and demonstrating the performance impact they have on organizations. It's a well developed and highly proven system that works.

Zenger Folkman has robust and propriety research on the powerful correlations of strength-based leadership development with:

  • Employee Engagement, Morale, and Retention
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Sales Growth
  • Profitability
  • Innovation
  • Productivity
  • Health and Safety

Download The Extraordinary Leader workshop brochure

Extraordinary Public Workshops with Jim Clemmer May 15 and 16, 2013 in Toronto

What Makes ZF's Extraordinary Leader Development System Uniquely Powerful

Zenger Folkman's core program is The Extraordinary Leader (outlined in their books, The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders and How to Be Exceptional: Drive Leadership Success by Magnifying Your Strengths). This is a uniquely powerful leadership development system using strength-based leadership development, on a foundation of evidence-based approaches, producing a highly personalized development plan, that's built around a best of class 360 multi-rater tool.

  • Using Strength-Based Leadership Development...
    • Rigorous analysis connecting strengths to organizational results.
    • Research proving building on strengths is up to 3 times more effective than improving weaknesses.
    • Studies showing strengths development is the only way to move from good to great leadership.
    • Evidence-based companion competencies using a non-linear approach to building strengths.
  • On a Foundation of Evidenced-Based Approaches...
    • Data-driven research identified 16 competencies in 5 clusters most differentiating the extraordinary leaders from everyone else.
    • Statistically correlated companion competencies guide personalized cross-training for building on an existing strength.
  • Producing a Highly Personalized Development Plan...
    • Feedback reports are simple and actionable.
    • Time tested feedback and leadership development workshop.
    • Aligning and multiplying each leader's strengths, passion for improvement, with organizational needs.
    • Identifying the key competency for strength development that will drive each leader's broadest improvement for their personal situation.
    • Coaching, implementation follow through, and strong support processes and tools to make learning stick.
    • Avoids the negativity and defensiveness found in many 360 feedback tools
  • Built Around a Best of Class 360 Multi-Rater Tool
    • Empirically derived competencies and survey items.
    • Response scale avoiding a false positive and compared to a high standard.
    • Insights to the leader on how to leverage a strength.
    • Written comments focused on fixing any fatal flaws.
    • Brief and efficient to avoid survey fatigue.
    • Employee Commitment/Engagement Index for broader context and reading of organizational health

What Extraordinary Leader Participants Learn

  • The empirically identified key leadership competencies that cause leaders and their team/organizations to flounder or flourish.
  • Understand the significant on-the-job performance differences between "good" and "extraordinary" leaders and the dramatic impact on his or her team/organization.
  • Why building on existing strengths is up to 3 times more effective than fixing weaknesses.
  • When to work on weaknesses.
  • Understand and cut through the complex interplay of strengths, weaknesses, and performance.
  • Prepare to receive an individual 360 leadership feedback report, understand the report structure, interpret the data, and learn how to use it in a positive way for growth and development.
  • Aligning and multiplying each his or her unique strengths and passion for improvement with organizational needs.
  • Research-based strength development using companion competencies, cross-training, and non-linear approaches to build an Individual Development Plan.
  • Identifying THE key competency for development that will drive each participant's broadest improvement for his or her personal situation.
  • Coaching, implementation follow through, and the support processes/tools to make learning stick.

Why The CLEMMER Group is Partnering with Zenger Folkman

Since founding The CLEMMER Group in 1994, this is the first time we've ever formed a strategic partnership. There are many reasons we decided to partner with Zenger Folkman. Here are the top five:

  • Jack Zenger -- Jim was co-founder of The Achieve Group and began working with Jack in partnership with Zenger Miller in 1981. Jack became a role model, inspiration, and mentor to Jim. Jim calls considers him one of his leadership development heroes! Two years after Zenger Miller purchased Achieve in 1991, Jack and Jim wrote the first draft of a book on "strategic organization change." With Zenger Miller/Achieve going through rapid changes that took Jack and Jim in different directions it was never finished.

As we've gotten to know Joe Folkman and others at Zenger Folkman, we've been very impressed by the high quality and high values team he, Jack, and Bob Sherwin (he was CFO at Zenger Miller) have put together. Click here to meet the key Zenger Folkman leaders.

  • Strengths-Based Leadership Development -- Zenger Folkman is on the leading edge of this exciting and pivotal movement. Jim's long been a follower and written quite a bit about the burgeoning new field of Positive Psychology in his blogs and latest book, Growing @ the Speed of Change. A strengths-based approach is rooted in optimism and builds a positive can-do culture.

Zenger Folkman has a solid database of research proving that working on strengths is up to three times more effective than working on weaknesses (unless there's a Fatal Flaw that needs immediate attention). You can read more about this in Developing Strengths or Weaknesses: Overcoming the Lure of the Wrong Choice in the Articles/White Papers section of the Zenger Folkman Resource Center.

  • Research/Evidence-Based Leadership Development -- search Amazon for books with "leadership" in their title and you'll find close to 100,000! How many other books are about leadership but don't have that word in the title? Google "leadership books" and you'll get over 1.1 million hits! There are a slew of theories, opinions, arcane thesis papers, inspirational quotations, training programs, frameworks, and approaches to leadership.

What's been sorely lacking is an integrated model that combines both "hard" management and "soft" leadership built on a base of solid research. Zenger Folkman's "tent model" and competencies built from their massive database on what sharply separates top and bottom-performing leaders provides that. Read Leadership Under the Microscope in the Articles/White Papers section of the  Zenger Folkman Resource Center for an introductory overview.

  • Coaching and Inspiring Skills/Philosophies - a few years ago Jim read and reviewed Jack Zenger's book, The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow. In over three decades of work in this field he's read a lot of material -- and written quite a bit -- on coaching, growing, and developing others. As Peter Drucker so strenuously argued for over 60 years, developing people is the essence of leadership. Jim absolutely loved The Extraordinary Coach. It's a unique combination of solid research, relevant and illustrative examples, with lots of practical how-to applications. Nothing else comes close.

More recently Jim read and reviewed The Inspiring Leader: Unlocking the Secrets of How Extraordinary Leaders Motivate. It's another gem. The book uniquely and powerfully pulls together Zenger Folkman's research on what the most inspiring leaders actually do, insightful examples, short, pithy, bite-sized sections in simple and very readable language, and how-to, practical steps to move you from inspiration to application. Their newest book, How to Be Exceptional: Drive Leadership Success by Magnifying Your Strengths continues ZF's tradition of publishing evidence-based and highly practical work.

  • A Powerful Fit with Our Culture/Leadership Development -- Zenger Folkman's programs and services perfectly extends and expands the work The CLEMMER Group's doing with our Clients. Their philosophies, research, and methods synchronize and reinforce the frameworks and approaches we've evolved over nearly two decades.

In 2007 Jack, Joe, and Bob decided to grow from the small consultant practice they built over the past five years. In 2010 and 2011 they joined the ranks of the Top 20 Leadership Training Companies. And they've only just begun. We're now delighted to be "on the grow" together!


Client list

Zenger Folkman Clients

Zenger Folkman Clients

Zenger Folkman Clients

Zenger Folkman Clients


Zenger Folkman and its strategic partners provide leadership training and development programs to client organizations large and small, public and private, located in every corner of the world. Our strength-based leadership programs have been delivered to thousands of individuals and teams across North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, and Africa. From teams of Fortune 500 line executives with global responsibilities to individual contributors in non-profit service organizations, Zenger Folkman has the tools to help organizations build extraordinary leaders.

What Clients Are Saying About Zenger Folkman's Extraordinary Leader Development System

"At Boeing's Aerospace Support division, we had concerns about our level of employee commitment. Our work with the Extraordinary Leader introduced us to the research showing a connection between leadership effectiveness and employee commitment. Partnering with Zenger Folkman, we created a competency model, an on-line multi-rater feedback process, and a workshop to help our leaders develop their strengths. Using the 'cross training' approach; our leaders achieved an across-the-board improvement of close to 15% in their year-over-year employee commitment scores. Not only did our best leaders get better, but our 'average' leaders and even our poorest leaders showed marked improvement in their leadership effectiveness and employee commitment scores. This improvement was a critical factor in our qualifications for the Malcolm Baldrige award, which our division won."
- Dee Thomas, HR Director, Boeing Aerospace Support

"The workshop was excellent and feedback from all participants has been extremely positive. I particularly enjoyed the way current paradigms on developing leaders were challenged. I have no doubt that those who attended will benefit from the experience and will, in turn, provide benefits for our organization."
- J. Mateparae, Master General, New Zealand Defense Force

"The Extraordinary Leader class was one of the most powerful and insightful programs I have ever attended. The 360-degree profile gave me deep insights into how others perceive me as a leader, and the course and follow-on coaching has paved an exciting path for me to follow in developing my leadership skills."
- Ricardo Fuchs, Vice President, Serv Corp, Inc.

"The Extraordinary Leader research caused us to rethink our performance management philosophy. We revamped our process to orient it more toward building employees' strengths. The results have been remarkable. We now have a more balanced performance agreement, highlighting areas of strength, and significant problems that must be fixed. The biggest change has been in the energy people have for the performance management process. It is now something that most employees look forward to. How many companies can say that?"
- Mary Settle, Vice President of Human Resources, BARD Access Systems


"...the path to greatness is really about building profound strengths, rather than through relentlessly focusing on one's weaknesses."
- Michael A. Peel, Yale University, Vice President, Human Resources and Administration

"...filling the gap from inspirational to practical 'how to' realities of leadership improvement. The difference is an unusual blend of credible and uncompromising research married with years of successful application with leaders and organizations. These past few years (ZF) have proven helpful in filling the gap from inspirational to practical 'how to' realities of leadership improvement. The difference is an unusual blend of credible and uncompromising research married with years of successful application with leaders and organizations. The result is innovative, at times challenging conventional wisdom, and ultimately
useful. I have seen talent in my organization engage and improve based on this work."
- Kevin D. Wilde, VP, Organization Effectiveness and Chief Learning Officer, General Mills, author of Dancing with the Talent Stars: 25 Moves That Matter Now

"Zenger Folkman's research and tools have provided excellent guidance to leaders I've worked with over the years. The tools allowed them to create actionable goals and inspired them to actively pursue excellence in leadership."
- Pam Mabry, Director, Human Resources, The Boeing Company

"The Zenger Folkman organization has had a profound effect on leadership development. Their research reveals the impact of strengths-based development on individual and organization success across industries and geographies. Their competency model and 360 evaluation provide the framework around which to build a development plan."
- Hillery Ballantyne, Senior Vice President, Talent Management and Leadership Development, Elsevier

"...the next evolution of focusing on strengths…compelling research to understand what it takes to become an exceptional leader. The insightful tools and developmental approaches help address fatal flaws and push your existing strengths over the edge to exceptional."
- Linda Simon, Senior Vice President, Leadership and Organizational Development, DIRECTV

"My organization has benefited for years from Zenger Folkman's involvement in our Leadership Training Programs… we have seen that people are much more successful when we focus on improving their natural leadership strengths while minimizing their weaknesses."
- Stephen K. Wiggins, EVP, Chief Information Officer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina; coauthor, Picasso on a Schedule

"...lifting leadership effectiveness from the (somewhat pejorative) realm of 'soft skills' to a plane that equates these competencies with 'harder' disciplines in two ways: not only can these skills be learned, but they can have a similar impact on bottom-line results and employee performance. Leadership cross-training is an approach that can have a powerful impact on helping good leaders become exceptional ones."
- Jaime Gonzales, Head of Professional Development, Jet Propulsion Laboratory