Strength of leadership is a critical driver of business success and now more than ever organisations are investing in the development of their next generation leaders. Diverting energy from recruitment strategies into a growth agenda is the critical first step in maximising the talent at your fingertips. In growing your own leaders you must first identify the capabilities your business requires and then define a development strategy that delivers.

Growing critical capabilities

Identifying appropriate development strategies begins by understanding the skills or capabilities required of individuals or groups. Start by reflecting on the effectiveness of your current leadership team and each person on it. Reflect broadly on the technical, interpersonal and professional capabilities that make the group successful. In doing so, reflect on the findings from the combined Harvard Business School and Heidrick & Struggles study into the demand of executive leadership roles which reported “one strikingly consistent finding: once people reach the C-suite, technical and functional expertise matters less than leadership skills and a strong grasp of business fundamentals”.

Planning for success

Develop learning plans for individuals and teams that identify ways in which you will deliberately foster these competencies over time. Expect every leader from supervisors up through the senior leadership ranks to understand and address the learning priorities of their team. Expect that they recognise the knowledge, skills and experience required for each person to successfully contribute to achieving the organisation’s vision.

Development strategies

Strategies adopted must align to the development need, budget and time available from participants.

Projects

Experience is the greatest teacher of all. No matter how well constructed and delivered, no academic program can compete with the learning that comes from assuming a ‘hands on’ role. Provide leaders the opportunity to broaden or change their portfolio of responsibilities. Develop the future CEO from among your ranks by growing not only the depth but also breath of your leadership team’s talents and experience.

Mentoring

Connect future leaders with other experienced people who are either more advanced in their careers or able to offer specialist expertise. Successful mentoring relationships are built from a foundation of mutual trust and respect, allowing the mentor to influence the thoughts, feelings, actions and ultimately success of the individual.

Leadership development programs

Encourage and support leaders to undertake development programs that provide far more than theoretical perspectives. Look for institutions and courses that offer future leaders the opportunity to apply lessons to their role and organisation. While distance learning is a preferred and more accessible option, the value of ‘contact time’ shouldn’t be underestimated.

Industry Events 

Conferences and networking events are great for building awareness, providing fresh ideas and making new industry contacts however they typically provide limited opportunity for real learning reflected in behavioural and capability change. 

Leadership circles

Bringing groups of future leaders together to share their experiences and learn from one another can provide powerful learning opportunities. When leaders feel connected to the group and are willing to be open and engage, the impact on their development can be immense. 

Regardless of the approach adopted, growing your own will deliver future leaders who are engaged in your vision, who champion of your culture and who will remain emotionally invested in your business long into the future.