Who’s driving the bus?: Steering away from a leadership talent gap

April 16, 2015 |

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
Peter Drucker

 

We’re running short of leaders. Today’s leadership capacity is insufficient to meet future leadership requirements. Many managers and executives are voicing their fears that the talent they have is not the leadership talent they need.

In the past, employees spent years at one employer, working their way through promotions and advancing to traditional leadership roles. With the average time spent at each company being less than five years, that’s no longer the case.

The concept of bench strength is becoming obsolete and is further realized by the leadership void from the large number of workers who are retiring. Millennials have not been properly developed, and therefore are just not that interested in taking on the old-fashioned leadership roles. Companies now face an urgent need to develop leaders at all levels, from bringing younger leaders online faster to developing leaders globally to keeping senior leaders relevant.

What’s the solution? First, we must define both what constitutes a leader and the most important leadership skills and perspectives for the future. Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. Good leaders

  • are decisive,
  • are innovators,
  • inspire commitment,
  • motivate others to perform at their best,
  • can plan strategically,
  • manage change,
  • believe in collaboration,
  • invest in employee development,
  • take calculated risks and
  • are willing to do what needs to be done.

What can your company do to develop future leaders? Smart companies are creating in-house leadership development programs that identify high-potential employees and put them through multi-year programs that include mentorships, management classes, stretch assignments and coaching. The goal is to elevate employees above a single function and give them a broader vision of the company.

How can you do this?

  • Perform a needs assessment. Identify the core competencies and capabilities leaders need currently and in the future to execute your organization’s mission and vision. Redefine what leadership means beyond job descriptions. Use consistent assessment practices such as 360-degree feedback tools, which are helpful in evaluating individuals’ areas of strength and development needs.
  • Create a leadership strategy. Understand the leadership behaviors and skills that are needed to deliver your organization’s business strategy and align them with operational needs. Develop strategies that balance long-term goals with immediate needs and that contain contingencies for future changes. Establish clear succession plans that encourage the typical short-tenured millennials to want to engage longer.
  • Rotate roles. Provide first-hand experience in many different roles throughout your company to gain exposure to different divisions and gain new expertise. Make sure there is an understanding of each role and how it feeds into your company’s mission.
  • Challenge comfort zones. Stretch assignments are growth-oriented exercises designed to push participants past their skill levels. Even failure offers valuable lessons that can add new skills, improve confidence and solidify employee commitment.
  • Create mentoring programs. Develop mentoring programs and train managers in ways to give feedback effectively. Pair employees with more experienced colleagues and provide clear guidelines for the mentoring relationship: when they’ll meet, how often and how they’ll communicate outside of those meetings. Partners should get to know each other before tackling specific issues. Spending time discussing work styles, personalities and backgrounds builds valuable trust.
  • Provide frequent feedback and coaching. Foster a feedback-rich environment and make sure there is adequate support for the new assignments and challenges. Frequent evaluations will help you coach, identify and address problems early on. Encourage managers to have career-goal discussions with employees regularly. The old way of annual evaluations does not work. Younger generations want more focused, customized evaluations. Develop recognition opportunities for managers to publicly acknowledge their employees and reinforce success and positive behaviors.
  • Keep filling the funnel. Not every candidate will have what it takes to be a good leader. Recognize that everyone has different strengths and keep restocking the program with those who have the potential to become future leaders.

Bottom line: Start treating your employees as your most important customer. Identify, inspire and encourage leadership opportunities. Promote employee engagement and improve corporate culture to show you’re invested in your teams’ continued growth and success and empower leadership from all levels of the organization. Don’t get stuck with nobody driving the bus!

 

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