University of Southern California

Catalyst for Growth
Marshall Professor on the Role of Supervisors and Experience in Developing Executive Talent
March 5, 2013 • by News at Marshall

Morgan McCall, professor of management and organization at the USC Marshall School of Business, has focused on how to build executive talent for the past 30 years. His research into the assessment, development – and derailment – of executives has added to the body of knowledge guiding best practices in the field.

McCall and co-author Jeffrey J. McHenry, a principal at Rainier Leadership Solutions, examine how the best of bosses develop leaders in “Catalytic Converters: How Exceptional Bosses Develop Leaders,” a chapter of the book Using Experience to Develop Leadership Talent. The book, which McCall edited with Cynthia D. McCauley, a senior fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership, is scheduled to be published by Jossey-Bass in late 2013 or early 2014 as part of the Professional Practice Series sponsored by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

"We wanted to explore exactly how and why these exceptional bosses have the impact they do and what, if anything, can be done to increase the positive impact of bosses on the development of leadership talent," said McCall.

The study focused on interviewing 10 senior executives who were identified as exceptional talent developers and 10 of their protégés from each of five corporations. McCall found that while stellar bosses used a variety of approaches to develop protégés, from inspiring through example to providing exposure to senior executives to offering career advice and guidance, they all did so through a relationship built on trust and mutual respect.

McCall said the influence of these exceptional bosses is undeniable, and encourages organizations to identify their exceptional leaders and make good use of them, and to create an environment where people are likely to develop others.

"If you want to have more of these kinds of people, it’s got to be a systemic intervention. Companies have to embed this stuff, while remembering that this is only a slice of a much larger issue: the use of experience in developing leaders," McCall said.

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.