Leadership Development Practices

Day (2001) argues that leadership development begins with creating a shared vision and meaning through sense-making to identify the value- added perspective in the process. Thus, the question that begs to be answered is, “How can I participate productively in the leadership process?” (2001, p. 605). In this section the discussion focuses on seeking possible answers to the aforementioned question in the Turkish business context. There are two main issues which should be regarded under the umbrella of leadership practices—content issues and process issues. Content issues deal with the factors that might support the development process for desired leadership skills and capacity, whereas process issues deal with the methods that form leadership development in a period, namely mentoring, coaching, 360-degree feedback, leadership training, and job assignments, among others (Day et al., 2014). Content issues have two dimensions. The intrapersonal dimension, which mainly addresses the leader as a person and deals with leader development, attempts to investigate some leadership relevant features of an individual, such as experience, education, skills, and personality. The interpersonal dimension, on the other hand, refers to all types of relationships and networks an individual might have as an agent in the organization (2014).

In consideration of intrapersonal dimension, one of the many ways that leadership development becomes possible is experiencing leadership by means of leading a team to solve complex business problems. Such approach in leadership development, particularly within the context of action learning or experiential learning, has become more prevalent as globalization and technology continues to play a vital role for businesses both in the developed and developing world (Marquardt, 2011). Beginning from childhood, leadership development is an ongoing process and naturally includes experiences such as training, part-time jobs, or volunteerism during or prior to receiving college education. Training programs may provide invaluable opportunities to develop leadership skills. Yet, as a result of overvaluing seniority in experience and age in Turkish business life, trainees are mostly seen as worthless and unskilled labor, and, at times, a time-consuming hindrance. As a result, they are often not given adequate opportunities to demonstrate their leadership potentials. Adding to this factor is Turkish college students’ heavy dependence on family support during their college education and government-sponsored scholarships. Thus, college students often do not consider seeking part-time work during school year and often seek internships only in summer for brief periods. Similarly, youth entrepreneurship, as an opportunity to gain leadership experience, is uncommon in Turkey. Although the Ministry of Youth and Sports has been actively working with college students to engage them in leadership and entrepreneurship activities through grants for start-ups and sponsored-projects, the percentage of youth entrepreneurs has been steadily decreasing (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2016).

Engaging in civil society activities through voluntarism usually contributes to leadership development as a result of organizing people and executing projects to fulfill social goals (MacNeil & McClean, 2006). However, in comparison with Western societies, Turkey has a crawling civil society, which is mostly composed of a mixture of communities with various sub-identities, such as religious, political, or regional. Most of these social communities have a patriarchal and seniority-based hierarchy and do provide very few opportunities for younger generations and female members to experience and develop their leadership skills. Furthermore, some extracurricular leadership development mediums such as volunteering and scouting activities are seen very seldom in Turkey. According to the World Giving Index (CAF, 2014), Turkey is among the least volunteering countries in the world (132nd among 135 countries included in the Index). Generally, Turkish people have rare leadership development opportunities before starting their professional life.

What has been presented for the educational, non-profit, and governmental perspective is also the case for the business world in Turkey. The existing literature indicates that the number of Generation Y employees is rapidly increasing in organizations. To achieve employee engagement, highly efficient companies benefit from implementing “succession planning” strategies hand in hand with leadership development practices (Groves, 2007). Although some of the Turkish business organizations have succession plans, especially in family-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), succession planning is usually limited to a single or very few in-group members. Even if the legacy leaders claim to favor competencies as the most important factor in selecting the next leadership cohorts, individual affiliations of the organizational members become more important in determining successors (Tatoglu, Kula, & Glaister, 2008). Thus, taking into consideration that 95 percent of Turkish companies are family-owned, we argue that this individual-based investment approach hinders the leadership capacity of the Turkish organizations in general.

There is a widespread confusion in Turkish business environment with terms like management and leadership, and manager and leader; these terms are mostly used interchangeably or as substitutes. In fact, management and leadership are “two distinctive and complementary systems of action” (Kotter, 1999, p.51), but leadership is not a responsibility of a handful of managers; it exists at all levels and surrounds every single member of the organization (Noel & Dotlich, 2008). However, in order to achieve “leadership development,” Turkish business organizations usually invest solely in managers and do not consider the potential of other employees with diverse work and life experiences.

While intrapersonal dimension of leadership development aims to invest in human capital, interpersonal dimension of leadership develop - ment focuses on social capital in organizations. “Social capital is a capability that arises from the prevalence of trust in a society or in certain parts of it” (Fukuyama, 1995, p.26). Yet results from World Values Survey (WVS,

2014) showed that among nations all over the world, Turkish people have one of the lowest trust levels to other people (11.6 percent, compared to world average of 24.2 percent). Turkey ranked in the 45th place out of 60 countries included in the survey. This high level of distrust inevitably harms leadership efficiency in Turkish organizations. But Galli and Muller-Stewens (2012) revealed that leadership development practices, in general, such as networking, mentoring, 360-degree feedback, leadership training, job assignments, and action learning, may contribute to social capital of the organization.

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