A leadership pipeline, simply put, is people with leadership potential in a company. According to a study by the BDC, “a leader’s job is to plan, to provide direction through a vision, to communicate that vision, to take charge and to lead by example”. There’s no leader function per se in an organizational chart; instead, this element is integrated into a formal position and associated with behavior.
Leaders are invaluable assets to the organization through their role in strategic management, the growth and achievement of objectives, and ultimately in inspiring teams. Therefore, it’s essential to ensure the continuity of this leadership. This involves nurturing a solid talent pool and taking advantage of development opportunities for leaders that will enable the company to meet its future challenges. In the following article, we will outline the essential steps to ensure a robust leadership pipeline, including effective tips on how you can best develop leaders.
Step 1: Assess your current leadership pipeline
The first step in strengthening your leadership pipeline involves assessing the current situation: What are the strengths and weaknesses of your existing leaders? What are their key skills and development potential? If you want to develop your future leaders and recruit new ones, you need to identify the leadership gaps within your organization.
Of course, at the same time, you should also carry out a detailed analysis of your company’s specific context, needs and culture. The qualities required of a leader can vary from one organization to another, so it’s important to adapt your approach to your environment to get it as right as possible.
Step 2: Identify your emerging leaders
You undoubtedly have several future leaders in your teams who aren’t yet in management or executive roles but who are demonstrating certain skills. It’s important to identify them and recognize them by ensuring that their managers are attentive to this behavior and are encouraging them. You can also do this by using more advanced assessments such as the SuccessFinder psychometric test. This tool will give you valuable and precise information about the behavioral traits and natural leadership preferences of candidates.
Once you’ve identified them, you’ll need to plan for their succession: what strategies will you use to train them and prepare them for the challenges specific to your company and your industry?
As much as possible, adopt a proactive and concerted approach (the whole organization has a role to play) to maximize your future leaders’ chances of success.
Step 3: Implement leadership training programs
The work environment also plays an important role in the emergence and internal development of leadership. An ecosystem offering a variety of opportunities for continuous learning and training, experimentation and innovation, not to mention recognition, is one of the most powerful tools for revealing quality leaders.
Thus, training will be essential to your leadership action plan, and the more personalized it is, the more effective it will be. Design customized development programs, linked to an individual’s areas of development for leadership and psychometric test results. Whatever format you choose, certain components are essential:
- Building knowledge with training.
- Integrating knowledge and putting leadership into practice.
- Discovering their leadership voice and style and making them aware of their impact.
- Supporting the continuous and long-term growth of leaders.
- Creating opportunities for sharing, problem-solving and collaboration.
Lastly, coaching and mentorship are invaluable tools for developing leadership: by encouraging current and emerging leaders to share their experience and knowledge, you promote and accelerate the professional development of mentees all the while enhancing the expertise of mentors. A winning formula, that can be standardized throughout the organization.
Step 4: Measure leadership success
Unsurprisingly, measuring success is an essential part of any leadership development program. As with any project, you need to ensure a return on investment by establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) linked to the progress of your potential leaders.
And while the skills sought in these profiles are often intangible (communication, ability to delegate, strategic vision, etc.), you can indeed measure the performance of your initiatives. According to this article from MIT, the KPIs ultimately depend on your company’s objectives. Is this a case of being able to clearly communicate the organization’s vision to its teams? Attracting and retaining the right people? Closing the gap between current leadership and the leadership that’s needed to grow the business…
Put in place tools and processes to collect accurate data on your initiatives and the development of the individuals involved. Don’t forget to stay flexible and responsive to the changing needs of your organization, as you’ll most certainly adjust your programs along the way.
The winning recipes for a healthy leadership pipeline
Some companies excel at leadership development but it’s safe to assume that one of their strengths lies in their ability to adapt to economic, technological and social change. In short, to the constraints and challenges that are part and parcel of organizational life. They absolutely need to consider these in their leadership development programs.
Added to this are the changes in skills, and even actual professions, that are necessary for companies to grow and survive, and which require the constant development of leaders.
A great example of putting this into practice can be found in our latest case study of CAE. Read how they were able to foster leadership excellence here.
Sustaining leadership excellence, an ongoing objective
Keep in mind that developing and maintaining your leadership pipeline is a long-term commitment – an ongoing mission that translates into the establishment of an internal leadership development culture. Encourage knowledge sharing, ongoing training and collaboration between current and emerging leaders.
Developing a critical mass of leaders is crucial to your organizational growth. You won’t turn a new manager into an experienced leader with a two-day training course. It takes time and a solid, integrated, long-term strategy to create the quality and quantity of leaders to suit your company’s needs.
As an essential step towards your organization’s growth and sustainability, building your leadership pipeline isn’t something to be taken lightly: it’s an ongoing process that requires sustained commitment. Your leadership pipeline is your passport to future success. Analyze your current situation, identify emerging leaders, set up effective leadership training programs, and cultivate the potential of your future leaders… Right now!