As many of you are aware, our world is at a critical point in history. Many studies are estimating that in the next 10-12 years, approximately 45-50% of the workforce in the United States alone will be gone, and most of the workers are from the Baby Boomer generation. They will be leaving in droves in leadership roles in business, education, government, the medical field and the world of non profits.
Many people argue that Generation X will fill these leadership roles and that all will be fine. Well…if you do the math, you will find our three main demographics in our world today include these numbers:
If you look at these figures, it is obvious that once the Baby Boomer Generation is out of the workforce, we are most definitely going to have a shortage of leadership talent.
I speak with young men and women under the age of 30 every day, and many tell me that they have been thrust into early leadership positions without any training, coaching or shadowing. They show up for work and hear “Hey…Margaret…Bob’s last day is tomorrow, so you are stepping into his role.” While the names in this statement are fictional, the scenario is not. Because of their knowledge, talent and confidence, members of the Gen Y demographic are being pulled into leadership roles at ages 24-29, and they are saying they are not ready…that they need training, shadowing and coaching. So, my question is this “If you are not acting now to get your Gen Y careerists trained for top leadership positions today, then when are you going to do it?” My opinion is this: If you are planning on waiting and just letting the cards fall where they may, your company will either suffer or your doors will unfortunately close.
So, today, I want to share with you five characteristics that I believe will be critical for your next gen leaders to have ingrained in their DNA and five steps you can take, starting today, to get your young careerists ready for the highest level positions in your company. And, no, I am not foolish on this one topic…I am talking about getting your young workers ready for positions like CEO, COO, Senators, Hospital Administrators and Superintendents of Schools.
The 5 traits of your next generation leaders:
1. An eagerness to both coach and be coached. Businesses are now moving into a coaching mode as opposed to an advice-giving or consulting mode. If you notice a young careerist who is open to being coached and then willing to coach other co-workers, peers and even bosses in the direction of success, you have a potential leader in your midst.
2. An innovative spirit and creative experimenter who inspires others to act. I truly believe that the leaders and companies who can innovate like mad will using new media and the technology we have at our fingertips will be the ones who survive in the future. If you spot a creative thinker who can also map out the strategy from start to finish of how to get a new product or service to the market, I recommend looking closely at this potential future leader.
3. A global collaborator who engages creative talent to produce positive results for your company. Because of new media and of course the internet, we can now collaborate on a global level. A true next generation leader will surround herself with talented people who can gather together for quick collaboration sessions. (Note: Be cautious of someone who wants to collaborate for hours and hours…red flag!) The best collaborators are those who can guide collaboration, take command, make quick decisions while mitigating risk and who is agile and flexible enough to move and bend with the collaborative process without dragging it out.
4. A young leader who has demonstrated shared leadership and self directed leadership. The old school hierarchical style of leadership is quickly fading away. Our next generation leaders are turned off by climbing the ladder, being excluded from decision making and having to wait until a question slowly crawls up the ladder to the top so that it can be answered. Generation Y is craving shared leadership, and they naturally lead with a self directed form of leadership. If you spot a young careerist who is willing to step aside and bring forward another leader who has a better grasp, ideas and input on a project, then you have yourself a great candidate for more training. While the buck will ultimately stop with this leader, a form of shared, self directed leadership gives other young careerists a voice, respect, credibility and a host of other skills which will build confidence and a create a bigger pool of potential leaders.
5. Strong networking and strategic alliance building skills. Companies of today and tomorrow cannot survive without alliances with other companies. I have watched and watched this for the last ten years. The companies who “hide” what they are doing, who don’t want to share with others and who see building alliances as a threat are either now closed or in jeopardy of falling off a cliff. Your strong future leaders should be networking maniacs and constantly scanning the global environment for companies who can make your business stronger, more visible and more credible.
How to train your next generation leaders so that they can step up and step into high level leadership roles
1. Study your under 30 employees closely for at least three months so that you can spot the above five characteristics. Remember…some people just have a bad day now and then, so look at the overall picture and don’t dwell on the few bad days…we all have them!
2. Once you have spotted the employees you believe are potential candidates for leadership roles, perform a full 360 degree feedback review on your potential candidates. Make sure to include questions which address the above five traits. You will want to gather feedback from co-workers, bosses, friends, former co-workers and family members to see how they view your potential candidates.
3. Choose your potential leadership candidates and hire an experienced executive coach to work with your high potentials for at least six months. Ask your potential candidates if they will agree to a final debrief with the executive coach to determine coachability.
4. Assign a tough project to your potential candidate to observe how she handles leadership under pressure. Once again, you are looking for the above traits as well as the obvious skills such as staying cool under pressure, time management, delegation and command.
5. Design a structured shadowing program for your potential leadership candidates. You will want your candidates to shadow your strongest senior leaders and then flip the situation. Ask your strongest older leaders to shadow the potential candidate for at least one month to get feedback about how they really act on the job. If you have a strong future leader, she will be able to stay cool and calm when being followed around all day by a higher management leader on your team.