Filling the Leadership Pipeline

By Michael W. Potempa, Executive Leadership Alliance International

Many organizations, big and small, are facing a dilemma – where to find their future leaders. They typically have strong leaders in place now, but demographics indicate that a large number of men and women in leadership positions will be eligible for retirement in the next few years. Further, the recent economic climate has prohibited allocating valuable resources to develop and/or hire potential replacements. Succession planning dropped down on management’s priority list creating a gap between the available talent pool and the organization’s upcoming needs. Current leaders are, or should be, refocusing on filling the leadership pipeline and keeping it full to drive future success.

This refocused effort should start with an evaluation and understanding of the organization’s strategic objectives. At the same time, current leaders must identify the skills, knowledge and criteria necessary in leadership at all levels of the organization to achieve these objectives. This will result in a list of core competencies that form the basis for a development approach used to create Individual Development Plans for employees determined to be high potential candidates for leadership roles. In generating the criteria and position descriptions it is important that current leadership remains consistent, but avoids being too regimented in a way that could stifle free thinking and creativity in future leaders.

In Growing Your Company’s Leaders, Fulmer and Conger state that “Best practice organizations do the following:
• Begin the identification process by establishing competencies for each position
• Competency models are most effective when they focus on a few items that set effective leaders apart from less effective ones, rather than listing every positive trait that all leaders might possess
• Establish methods to assess individuals against the competencies
• Identify types of developmental assignments
• Track ongoing development of individuals”

As an example, one organization identified four Key Competency Areas for leadership positions – Drive for Success; Grow the Business; People Leadership; and Personal Effectiveness. They developed subsets consisting of from 5 to 7 bullet points describing competencies that define each of the four areas. They used this as the foundation for constructing a Strategic Talent Review and Development Planning program. It is showing positive results and seems to have the organization on the right track for filling its leadership pipeline.

Leaders in all organizations must take this situation to heart and ask themselves if they are on the right track in addressing the need to fill the leadership pipeline. If so, they should be congratulated on their vision for future success. If not, it is time to get going to avoid a leadership drought that is coming at them faster than they may think.

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One Response to Filling the Leadership Pipeline

  1. Glen Fillion says:

    Very good article, Michael. I would add that companies that have not adequately planned for leadership succession at the executive level will find themselves in a leadership vacuum. One short term solution to this would be to hire a highly experienced top executive to initiate a viable succession plan and groom a capable successor. ELAINT is highly qualified resource for just these kinds of executives.


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