Current leaders are best positioned to develop future leaders

Your company’s long-term strategic advantage relies on strong leadership at all levels. But as veteran baby boomer leaders retire, you’re losing decades of priceless leadership experience. In CLG’s recent study of 54 large corporations across seven industries, a majority cited leadership talent pipeline gaps as a critical issue. Many chief human resources officers and global talent executives acknowledge they’re lagging in this area, and it is hurting them.

Gen Xers have patiently waited to assume leadership, and behind them a tidal wave of potential millennial leaders is swelling. So, the challenge is to accelerate upcoming talent development. HR departments are rushing to do so, but many organizations have a five-to-seven-year leadership development time frame, and companies can’t wait that long.

Fortunately, you already possess your “secret weapon” for developing leadership talent: your current leaders. They have direct knowledge of what is needed for the job. They are available daily. They interact with high-potentials throughout their progression. They already track performance and coach individuals with in-the-moment feedback. This places these experienced leaders in an optimal position to help HR and the organization develop talent, in place, right now. It is the coaching, feedback, and learning opportunities they create that can accelerate development of emerging leaders.

A study of HR professionals at 20 leading international corporations confirmed that the most successful organizations make “development of leaders” central in their culture, and take concrete steps to align their leaders’ behaviors to support the talent pipeline. Competitive advantage doesn’t just come from best practices and standard talent management. True competitive advantage comes:

  • When leaders are selected not only for their technical skills, but also for their ability to grow the next generation of leaders.
  • When observing and coaching others is made a core part of each leader’s role, and observing and coaching is rewarded.
  • When leaders are held accountable for identifying and developing talent.

Leaders at every level can — and must — drive leadership development, because it’s not just a staffing issue. It’s about having the right leaders in place to execute strategy. When new leaders are ill-prepared, their teams suffer poor focus and misalignment, and execution falters.

Unfortunately, leaders often struggle with observing, coaching and supporting emerging leaders, which creates inconsistency in how effectively they develop their direct reports. Some leaders don’t realize it is part of their job. Some lack the skills or awareness of how to do it. Many need to be shown what specifically to do — what their behaviors must be. HR plays a critical role in assisting with the effort.

Leaders who excel at talent development leverage five critical capabilities:

  1. Strategic talent mindset — they’re naturally focused on strategic talent.
  2. Talent identification — they’re good at spotting leadership talent.
  3. Creating development opportunities — they proactively seek/create opportunities that stretch the emerging leader’s capacity.
  4. Coaching skills — they provide feedback and guide emerging leaders through key learning experiences.
  5. Interpersonal awareness — they listen well and understand what drives the emerging leaders.