As in many other areas of business life, succession planning (or the lack of it) has a lot to do with attitude. Attitude that starts with the CEO. Can the CEO, for example, outsource talent development and management to others? The report, Why Global Leaders Succeed and Fail, suggests that the answer to this is NO. “The CEO’s role is paramount to the depth of the leadership pipeline. Companies that have a higher proportion of promotions from within are less likely to suffer from lack of qualified candidates. Those CEOs who are personally vested in developing leaders enjoy a richer likelihood of stronger leadership bench strength, ensuring the organization is ready for unplanned changes or pending retirements at the top levels.”
Large organisations have always had leadership development programmes, with, it has to be said, varying degrees of success. Talent is spotted early or recruited for and then developed, given experience of working in the component parts of the business and promoted into the roles that become vacant within the organisation. For global businesses like IBM or McKinsey, the scope is there to invest in this process.
For smaller organisations that have the desire to grow, there will also be a need for leadership teams to grow and develop. The leader (often also the founder) will come under pressure and need to delegate parts of the business management to others as growth happens. How much better will it be if the transitions that take place are part of a planned growth of the business and if the leadership roles can be filled from within by people who are already prepared to do that.
As the report puts it – “Success requires sound, effective and efficient assessment of emerging talent at multiple levels to provide the best opportunity for executives to build a strong portfolio of bench strength talent they can deploy in the future. It requires attention to make sure that this talent is kept “on the team” and not just “on the bench.””
Leadership, the report also suggests, is often thought of as a singular capability but is actually several variable sets of skills. “Leadership development, therefore, should include differing practical experiences (often referred to as “Action Learning”) and training/education opportunities unique to the requirements of a specific leadership role.” Matching strengths to requirements is part of the skill set of the CEO and his/her leadership team.
Is the time that will be invested in developing people be paid back? Are you just preparing people for successful careers elsewhere? The key seems to be in the matching process. Preparing people for roles that never come into being is a surefire way to ensure they move on. “With rising individual choice in how, when and where work gets done, combined with a growing restlessness of many employees, business leaders need to anticipate and identify desired needs at higher levels and then provide meaningful development opportunities to gauge and grow capabilities.” The report notes.
Human Resources professionals, either as part of the team or external to it, have a part to play in this process, but it is clear that the CEO is central to the success of the business development process. “It’s a complex responsibility to lead in a global marketplace. As we enter the Human Age, quality leadership will be increasingly important to drive business value and results. We trust that the insights garnered from this study will help organizations to make more informed leadership development and succession management decisions so as to triumph in the changing world of work.”
At the Academy, we also trust that the experiential learning that comes from attending our peer group sessions will also prepare leaders for the Human Age. It is something that we have always believed in – and still do.
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The Leadership Insights report Why Global Leaders Succeed and Fail from Right Management can be downloaded from http://www.right.com/globalleadershipstudy . (registration required).