Talent Management - April 2011 - (Page 24)
Next Generation Leaders: Small, Medium and Large
Daniel R. Tobin
Size doesn’t matter. Every company can invest in leadership development for future leaders.
ith the pending retirement of the baby boomer generation, companies of all sizes are rightly concerned with who will fill senior executive positions and how they can develop their next generation of company leaders. Half a century ago, Lawrence J. Peter wrote The Peter Principle, which stated: “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” That is almost universally true — if we have an employee who is doing a great job, we tend to promote him or her into management. If that employee does a great job as a first-level manager, we promote him or her to become a manager of managers. We keep promoting that employee until he or she reaches a level where he or she isn’t doing such a great job, and then we leave that employee there doing a fair to poor job, or we fire him or her. The antidote to the Peter Principle is to prepare employees for the next level of jobs, rather than bemoan the fact that they aren’t ready. Leadership development comes in all shapes and sizes, however. Associated literature is full of program examples from large organizations. General Electric stands out as a company with an excellent reputation for growing its own leaders, as well as growing leaders who then leave and become CEOs at other large companies. But few midmarket companies — with 1,000 to 5,000 employees — have the equivalent staff or monetary resources to invest in a GE-style leadership development program. Fortunately, the size of a company doesn’t really matter; every company can and must invest in developing its next generation of leaders if it is to prosper, or even survive, in the near- and long-term future.
Imitated and Duplicated
Here is a proven model for a leadership development program (LDP) that midmarket companies can use to prepare the next generation of leaders. The model has four components: 1. Formal education sessions of two to three days each: These can be held once a quarter over a period of one to two years. Topics are chosen by company executives from three basic categories: leadership skills, business acumen and execution skills. Many companies have sent high potentials to solid leadership development programs at well-known business schools or other leadership education vendors only to find leadership skills alone do not make a leader. Along with leadership skills, companies must build business acumen in high-potential future leaders to broaden their focus from functional or technical specialties to a holistic understanding of the company’s business. They also need to develop high potentials’ execution skills because even the greatest vision will not benefit the company unless the company’s leaders can execute on that vision. 2. Action learning projects: Assigned to individual participants or teams of participants, these should follow each education session to help reinforce learning. These projects also allow companies to test participants’ skills before promoting them. 3. Individual development plans: These focus on the unique development needs for each LDP participant beyond what will be covered in the formal education sessions. Plans should be based on a 360-degree assessment of each participant and written in con-
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