Case 2: Leadership Development for Executive Leaders at the К Corporation

Company Background

The K Corporation is one of several conglomerates in Korea. It started as a textile company in 1953. Within ten years, it became the first textileexporting company in Korea; to control the whole industry chain by vertical expansion, it moved into petrochemical and oil refinery business. Later, the firm successfully expanded into the energy sector, information and communications technologies (ICT), and semiconductors. In 2014, the company grew into the third largest corporation in Korea, with more than 100,000 employees.

Company Philosophy on Talents and Leadership Development

The K Corporation’s formal and strategic investment into leader development can be traced back to the early 1970s, when the second CEO took over. At that time, Korea was transitioning from one of least developed countries into a developing country, yet the population’s overall education and skill levels remained very low. Upon earning his master’s degree in economics in the United States, the K Corporation’s CEO came back and initiated the creation of the mission, management philosophy, corporate core values, and operating protocols by working with external advisory groups and internal firm leaders. He firmly believed that, for continual growth, all leaders and employees must have a firm grasp on and the same understanding of management. The result was the establishment of K Corporation’s management system, known as KMS, and the K Academy, which was the first firm-level institution in Korea specifically designed to educate the leaders as well as all employees. During the opening ceremony, the CEO stated the following:

The K Academy’s education is not to develop employees into scholars. When people think of education, they think of learning at a school. Learning at the K Academy will be hands-on and experiential focusing on management issues and the needs of the firm. Unless everyone engages in experimenting or presenting, the best training or high quality teaching will not produce any results. When people learn in the K Academy, it will have to be skills that they can use at work, and such learning should become a powerful weapon.

... In modern management, they say that 3Ms (man, money, and material) are the most important, but the most important is man, the second is still man, and the third is again man.

The third CEO, who started in 1998, also publicly professed his strong will for developing talents, particularly at the executive level. Until the early 2000s, the company’s main profit was still from the domestic market, and its growth rate was slowing down. In 2004, the CEO made the following bold statements:

Now, the K Corporation aims to become a top global company. For this, we need to possess strong competencies that enable us to succeed in global competition. Most importantly, senior leaders must win in the global market, and we must know how they compare to peers at global leading companies. First, we must know where we stand. Senior leaders’ competency development starts from self-awareness. They should be diagnosed for strengths and weaknesses, and the firm needs to provide opportunities and tools for them to proactively grow.

His announcement was followed by two specific actions for executive development: the creation of a leadership diagnosis and feedback system and the initiation of the Learning Account system, a financial support of ten thousand dollars per executive leader for self-development, which was to encourage and recognize self-directed learning.

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