It is not uncommon to hear senior leaders talk about their fears around their succession plans. They aren’t really sure who will be stepping into their shoes following retirement but the bigger question is usually “How do I know who will be a good fit?”
There is one thing that I feel sure about…the best people to begin focusing your leadership development around are those men and women between the ages of 24-35. Many companies say they don’t want to offer leadership development to their younger employees, because they will more than likely be gone before they have the opportunity to step into a critical leadership role. If this is your view, then you are probably not a visionary leader. The goal is to develop high potential candidates…even those you are afraid may leave you one day, because if you treat them well, and train them well, there is a great chance they might just return to your company down the road.
So, the first question I hear is this “How to I spot an emerging leader?”
Here are a few qualities to look for. While an emerging leader may not have all of these skills, they should have at least 7-8 of these skills which are quite evident to you and your senior team:
1. Intellectual horsepower: IQ of 130 or higher. The person needs to be a quick learner/quick study.
2. Vision: Emerging leaders can communicate a compelling vision for the future.
3. Quick, sound decision making: Emerging leaders need to be able to make sound decisions without undue delay. They gather as much information as quickly as possible, and move on the decision, and at the end of the day, the decision they make is usually one that you can stand behind.
4. Change agents: Great future leaders stand for change, initiate change and get behind cultural changes happening inside your company.
5. Energetic: Emerging leaders have a passion for work and are high energy in nature. They aren’t slaves to the company, but they give 110% while they are working, and they are willing to go the extra mile and pitch in to help out when help is needed.
6. Ability to mentor and coach others: Our future leaders must be able to coach other people so that they are empowered to make smart decisions and can develop out their skills, both soft and hard skills.
7. Marketing savvy: Top leaders understand the trends in the marketplace and know how to help the company build out the brand so that customers are clear about your company and receive red carpet treatment.
8. Strategic agility: Emerging leaders need to be able to think ahead, to spot trends and to be able to paint a crystal clear picture of how plans “fit together” so that a breakthrough plan can be developed out.
9. Communication skills: Both oral and written skills need to be professional, crisp and clear. Emerging leaders need to be able to communicate not only by text, e-mail and Facebook but in face to face conversations and through a well-written letter.
10. Team player and collaborator: Emerging leaders need to be able to play well on a team. They need to be able to seek out the opinion of others and build consensus so that the team moves in sync in the direction of established goals and the vision for your company.
Once you have spotted your emerging leaders, it will be time to sit down with these individuals and formulate a true leadership plan. The plan should focus on strengthening the above skills and also addressing topics such as:
- Conflict resolution
- Emotional intelligence
- Critical thinking
- Networking with higher management
- Learning everything they need to know about the past, present and future of the company
Just remember…don’t worry if you think you are going to “throw away” training on a high potential candidate who may leave you. If you focus on leadership development, they will leave your company and RAVE to others about what you did for them…trust me…this is most always the case!.