Leadership at scale

Leadership at Scale: Better Leadership, Better Results

Leadership at Scale provides leaders with the systematic and fact-based leadership development approach they need to unlock organizational performance in today’s fast-paced business environment.

December 2018 | Claudio Feser, Michael Rennie, Nicolai Chen Nielsen

With organizations undergoing unprecedented shifts and the nature of work moving to an increasingly decentralized model, leaders now more than ever need to help their organizations adapt quickly to new realities. Despite leadership development being a top priority for most CEOs, the results seldom achieve their objectives. Leadership programs fail to make a meaningful difference to business performance, and organizations fall short on the leadership talent they need.

Many leadership development programs focus on bringing universal leadership qualities to a few individuals in a company. Our research shows that approach is not effective. In today’s world of constant change and decentralized decision-making, organizations need to drive leadership throughout the organization. That requires a new approach.

Grounded in insights from over 375,000 data points and the global experience of more than 25 senior leadership practitioners, Leadership at Scale shows how to drive leadership effectiveness that reaches the entire organization, adapting to diverse contexts and achieving impact at scale.

Illustrated by a fictional step-by-step case and numerous real-life examples, the book identifies four principles as the key to success:

  1. Focus on the leadership behaviors most effective for driving organizational performance
  2. Engage a critical mass of influencers across the organization to reach a tipping point for the change to become self-sustaining
  3. Design programs for lasting behavioral change, using the latest adult learning principles based on neuroscience
  4. Integrate the program into the broader organizational systems and measure the program’s impact

Combining research and rigor with practical application, Leadership at Scale is required reading for today’s leaders who seek to unlock organizational performance through leadership effectiveness.

Four principles for developing leaders at scale

About the authors

Claudio Feser

Claudio is a Senior Partner and co- founder of McKinsey’s Leadership Development practice. He is a trusted advisor to CEOs and top management on strategy, organization and leadership topics. He is a frequent author of articles and books on leadership development, including Serial Innovators: Firms that Change the World and When Execution is Not Enough: Decoding Inspirational Leadership.

Michael Rennie

Michael is a former senior partner and global leader of McKinsey’s Organization Practice. Over his three-decade career, he pioneered McKinsey’s approach to culture change and advised clients across industries on HR, organizational transformations, top team effectiveness, and growth. He is the author of The Performance Culture Imperative: A hard-nosed approach to the soft stuff.

Nicolai Chen Nielsen

Nicolai is an associate partner and a leader of McKinsey Academy. He advises and serves clients across the private and public sector on leadership development, culture change, capability building, and agile transformations. Nicolai leads McKinsey’s latest research on leadership development at scale and has coauthored the articles “What’s missing in leadership development” and “Unlocking leadership in turbulent times.”


“Many leadership programs focus on developing a few individuals. However —given the dynamic environment —firms need to be able to build more leaders and faster. This book is unique in that it compellingly answers the question of how large firms can build leaders at scale.”
Graham Ward, PhD, Adjunct Professor of Organizational Behavior, INSEAD Business School

“Today many organizations are trying to simplify and become more dynamic. However, decentralizing decision power and engaging all members of large organizations requires building more and stronger leaders. Leadership at Scale is a practical guide to do so.”
Mario Greco, Chief Executive Officer, Zurich Insurance Group

Leadership at Scale provides a clear methodology for increasing leadership effectiveness across an organization, not only for the top leaders, but for all employees. A key resource for leaders who need to prepare their organizations to master the challenges ahead.”
Joe Jimenez, Board Director, Procter & Gamble and General Motors

“Leadership is our most valuable resource to drive positive change in business and society. Leadership at Scale is a comprehensive, academically thorough, and yet practical guide on increasing leadership effectiveness across a large organization, not only for the top leaders, but for all employees. I look forward to applying the principles in our organization.”
Vasant Narasimhan, M.D., Chief Executive Officer, Novartis AG

“A first-class template demonstrating how to use superior leadership to drive performance in large organizations.”
Paul Myners (Lord Myners), former FTSE100 Chair and Treasury Minister