Yesterday a senior leader shared with me that their organization is great at promoting people who have top-notch technical expertise. “But we’re terrible at growing future leaders,” this person said. “No one wants to stop doing what they’re an expert at and develop the people who are coming up.” This person could clearly see the shoals ahead if their ship doesn’t change course. Leadership development can seem like an either/or scenario – either being an expert OR developing people -- and the good news is, it doesn’t have to be. We’re talking about two things here – vision and ownership of the steps involved in developing leaders. According to author and consultant Elaine Biech, “Leadership development must start at the top so that all leaders have a role model.” “Leaders need to be clear about what they need to do and why,” she notes. She identifies six critical success factors, listed below, that distinguish organizations that successfully develop their leaders. “An organization's leaders are the key in each of these actions to ensure success,” said Biech, and she encourages leaders to ask the following questions as they consider their leadership development efforts. “To what extent do our leaders...
View leadership development from a strategic, future focus?
Make improving quality of bench strength a top priority?
Accept full responsibility for developing future leaders?
Practice evaluating the results of leadership development?
Value learning and development?
Take a long-term, aligned, systemic approach to developing leaders?”
The key is to identify goals for the program and choose the options that best fit those goals. In fact, The Wall Street Journal offers several great tips for creating a leadership development pipeline. They include:
Job rotations. Rotate people through different jobs to round out their skills and experience.
New opportunities. Use “stretch assignments” that give opportunities for growth.
Mentor. Establish mentoring programs.
Stretch, but don’t break: Provide coaching and frequent feedback.
Ask veterans for advice and tap into that advice for the benefit of high-potential future leaders. Plus, find ways to continue engaging with older workers after they retire so newer team members can benefit from their knowledge and expertise.
Does your organization have a people strategy that includes the development of future leaders? If you have a strategy and a program, have you recently benchmarked it with other firms and identified how it could be improved? If you work outside of HR in your organization, ask about how you can incorporate leadership development strategies as part of ongoing project teams. (See the Leadership Reminder List that Elaine Biech mentions, in her article, for suggestions.) You don’t have to choose between “being an expert or developing future leaders” – you can “be an expert and develop future leaders.” Perhaps most of all -- although you may be a more “seasoned” leader yourself -- you too can benefit from these kinds of initiatives as a leader.