Developing Future Leaders
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Earlier this year I was in
Germany working with a group of "high potentials" - employees who had been
selected by their managers as outstanding candidates for the next generation of
leaders. My client (an international organization in the high-tech industry) is
investing substantially in training, coaching, and mentoring opportunities for
this talented group of professionals.
The company's commitment to
leadership development is in direct contrast to what I've seen in many other
organizations. Definitive, purposeful succession planning is rare, even at the
very highest corporate levels. Too often the "bench strength" in leadership is
so poor that careers stall because no one else has been groomed as a management
successor. Companies that don't address this issue now are going to be at a
serious disadvantage in the very near future.
By the year 2011, the leading edge of the Baby Boom workforce will be 65 years
old - eligible for full retirement. And that generation's collective wisdom will
leave with them unless it has been transferred to younger employees. Which in
turn makes succession planning and knowledge sharing increasing important to an
organization's financial strategy.
Effective leadership is a
crucial source of competitive advantage, and corporations can't just wait for
leaders to arrive, fully developed. Organizations must actively seek out people
with leadership potential and find ways to nurture and develop that potential.
It takes a serious commitment of both time and resources to do it right. But
that is the key to what separates great companies from good companies. Great
companies make developing leaders a priority.
Here's how . . .
The process begins with the
early identification of leadership talent, and the realization that under
certain circumstances, leadership potential is easy to spot. In an area of
complex problems or in times of crisis, there are people who organically rise to
the top. They are proactive, reliable, thoughtful, and they automatically take
control. These natural leaders speak up - and other people listen to them
because they're providing solutions, not just stating problems.
Joseph Pieroni, president of
Sankyo Pharma, notes the emergence of informal leadership in his organization:
"Every time we are in a tough situation, people point to the same two or three
individuals because we feel confident these 'leaders' will go well beyond their
area of responsibility - and do whatever is needed."
Identifying new leaders is
something that all current leaders should be responsible for - and that policy
is most effective if it starts at the top. CEOs and presidents need to spend
time focused on this issue, assessing leadership strengths as well as current
and future organizational requirements. And leadership development should start
early. Ten or fifteen years before a person is expected to be at their full
potential, current management should be discussing how to develop this
individual. The most valuable conversation will center on how people use their
time: How can their skills be leveraged in new ways? Who needs to know these
people? Who should be working with them, coaching and mentoring them? What
experiences would be the most advantageous?
Spotting potential leaders
is also a smart move for managers who want to advance their own careers. As one
savvy leader told me, "The minute I begin a new assignment, I start looking for
people who can be groomed as my successor. I know that I won't be able to take
the next step until someone else can take over my current job."
At Federal Express,
employees identify themselves as candidates for leadership positions, and CEO
Fred Smith discovered early on that not everyone has the unique traits that
leaders need to succeed in the FedEx environment. His observation: "Our
Leadership Evaluation and Awareness Program explains the demands of management
as well as the personal characteristics and traits needed for successful
leadership. I find it interesting that, once they know the demands and
requirements, some 70 percent of the participants drop out of the program."
However future leaders are
identified, the next step is to find ways to nurture their potential. Along with
formal educational opportunities, mentoring relationships, and personal coaches,
leading-edge companies make sure that key candidates receive the kind of
assignments that help them grow and develop.
The head of Ketchum's brand
practice, also the associate director of their New York office, was offered the
director position in Atlanta as a way of rounding out her expertise. That was a
decision made to advance her career, and looked at from the standpoint of what
would add the most value for her. Another example from Ketchum is a director
from the San Francisco office who was moved to a leadership role in London so
that he could gain international experience.
But leadership development
isn't only about acquiring business skills. It's also about effective mental
preparation. According to Bob Dilenschneider, CEO of The Dilenschneider Group,
the key is learning to keep a sense of perspective: "Keeping your balance at all
times can be extremely difficult. Since leaders play the game at the highest and
lowest levels, they experience the glory of the victories as well as the
disappointment of setbacks and failures. The trick is not to let the glory go to
your head nor let the disappointments devastate you."
I agree with Bob. Giving
people the freedom to succeed and fail - and the guidance to help them deal with
both - may be the best leadership development strategy of all.
About the Author
Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.is an international
Keynote speaker on collaborative leadership and the impact of
language in the workplace.
coach to executives to improve their leadership presence and
Leadership blogger for Forbes and author of "The Silent Language of
Leaders: How Body Language Can Help - or Hurt - How You Lead.”
Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com Authors Google+
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-11-25 13:36:40 in Employee Articles