News at Smith

Leadership Development from Research to Practice

Sep 01, 2008


The Smith School’s Center for Human Capital, Innovation and Technology (HCIT) explores issues at the intersection of these three key management resources and leverages this knowledge to help organizations develop their leaders to their fullest potential.

“The center is interested in how human capital, technology, and innovation come together to provide competitive advantage. This may take many different forms, such as how knowledge workers’ expertise and skills are brought together collaboratively through technology, how organizations can create a climate and culture that supports innovation, and how organizations use technology to fuel and drive innovation,” says Paul Tesluk, professor of management and organization, chair of the management and organization department and co-director of HCIT with Susan Taylor, Smith Chair of Human Resource Management and Organizational Change and the Smith School’s senior associate dean. Most of the center’s research projects have a human capital component, an innovation component or outcome, and a technology component.

HCIT draws on the technical expertise of Smith’s management faculty, as well as faculty from across the Smith School and the University of Maryland, and partners with organizations in both the private and public sectors. One fruitful long-term relationship has been with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. An HCIT team working with the department’s Division of Parole and Probation Services developed a front-line leadership development program for the Division’s first- and second-level supervisors. The goal of the program was to provide front-line leaders of the division with leadership skills to enable much-needed innovation and change to the state’s parole and probation system, by moving away from merely monitoring the convicted felons for whom the officers were responsible to a more engaged type of management.

Large-scale organizational change is one of the most difficult processes for leaders to manage, and working with organizations that are moving through such changes has provided interesting sources of data for the center.

For the past several years HCIT has also conducted a multi-element leadership program with Anne Arundel Medical Center, working with their top leadership team through in-class sessions, executive coaching, and action learning projects within the organization. “That project focused on leadership in the midst of large-scale organizational change as the organization has grown and expanded to move from a local to regional major healthcare provider,” says Taylor.

Through working with these organizations, the center has gained insights into key factors that affect how organizations deal with change, such as employee resistance to change and how leader behavior can affect employee resistance across the entire organization, not just within the top management group.

Tesluk and Taylor have found the Smith School’s executive coaching program, which is part of the Executive MBA curriculum, to be a ready-to-hand source of data about an increasingly important tool in the leadership development arsenal. When executives enter the program they are given an extensive set of assessments—skills, personality, videotaped simulations of their presentation and problem-solving styles—and then work with their coaches on personal development plans. Between 60 and 80 executives who are taking part in the Smith School’s Executive MBA program participate in executive coaching.

This has allowed intensive data gathering on coaching, which Tesluk and Taylor are using in current and future research projects. “Coaching is one of the more effective tools organizations can invest in to develop leadership capabilities within their organizations. But we understand very little about how it works: how do you structure coaching, what kinds of coaching behaviors are most critical to helping leaders develop difficult-to-acquire leadership skills, what kinds of things make for a good fit between an executive and a coach? The center has a good combination of people who both provide executive coaching but who are also interested in studying it,” says Tesluk.

On November 14, 2008, HCIT will hold an all-day executive conference on leading radical change from all levels of an organization, featuring Jim Parker, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, as a keynote speaker. In spring 2009 the center will hold its first conference on executive coaching intended for both academics and practitioners.

For more information about the center’s research and conferences, please

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The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.