Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Widening Gap Between Leaders and Up-and-coming Leaders…and What to Do About It

Never in our time has there been a greater need for outstanding leaders. Regulatory changes and changes to the international economic landscape have made it challenging for today’s leaders to achieve the results they need to survive, never mind the results they need to thrive. There is, however, much that can be done to confront these challenges head-on. What’s needed to overcome what I call the “leadership crisis,” is not new technology or massive staffing changes.  What’s needed is a shift in focus towards recognizing, supporting and developing leaders who possess both a strong “inner-core” of character and conviction and “outer-core” of leadership capability. These leaders, old guard and new, must be able to think creatively and critically at the same time. They must strategize effectively and respond with speed and competence to high-pressure situations.
Succession planning programs are meant to address the need for strong leaders, however the gap between those currently in leadership positions and the next wave of leaders is growing by the day, and these programs have not been designed to keep up with the accelerated pace dictated by this dramatic shift in demographics. By some estimates, up to 40-70% of any organization’s management population is currently eligible to retire. And of course, the succession planning debate is not only about having the right number of people to step into leadership roles; the quality and state of readiness of those who will take over leadership is even more vital to an organization’s success.                                                    

To address the leadership crisis from both angles (the need for both enough people and more importantly the right people), innovative practices such as job rotation, leadership development through coaching, mentoring, action-learning, and next-generation behavioral performance evaluation must all be considered. All of these practices, and other methods of identification and tracking of leaders, will be required to increase the speed with which organizations develop talent. The challenge is to put these and other innovative tools to use in a structured manner to build an enduring leadership succession program. One way to achieve this is by starting with a strong, compelling Succession Management Value Proposition.

 In practical terms, an organization’s Succession Management Value Proposition (SMVP) is the holistic sum of the following practices:
(1) Demarcation-performance management;
(2) Diagnostic—objectively assessing leaders andpotential leaders;
(3) Deployment-structured meetings to integrate performance and potential assessments, calibrate capability, determine development options, and identify potential replacement scenarios; and
(4) Development—coaching, on-the-job development and training programs.

There exists no better way to create the belief in the value of the human capital asset, than by demonstrating the connectedness between winning succession practices and operational success. As I discuss in my book Talent Leadership, a strong SMVP foundation leads to:
(1) Capability-“Can Do”;
(2) Commitment-“Will Do”; and
(3) Alignment-“Must Do”.
To put in different words, a strong SMVP is the foundation for any organization to build and sustain a culture in which leaders and future leaders become continuously more capable, committed and aligned. In fact, organizations of all sizes that excel in promoting and developing leadership talent—with a focus and unwavering commitment to optimizing these “leading” indicators achieve impressive results.

About John Mattone
John Mattone is a sought-after keynote speaker, trainer and coach to many leading corporations and government agencies. John has been recognized by the prestigious Thinkers50 as one of the world’s leading management thinkers and by Leadership Excellence Magazine as one of the world’s top leadership consultants, speakers and executive coaches. John is the author of seven books, including the best-selling, Talent Leadership: A Proven Method for Identifying and Developing High-Potential Employees (October, 2012).  John’s newest book, Intelligent Leadership: What You Need to Know to Unlock Your Full Potential is set for release in hardcover in April, (digital versions are already available for purchase).  Connect with John by email at, follow him on Twitter and like his page on Facebook and visit his website.

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