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Crisis in Leadership - Reluctance to Develop

The lack of qualified candidates and a lack of specific leadership development keeps CEOs awake at night.

Crisis in Leadership – Reluctance to Develop

As I travel around the country conducting leadership workshops and speaking about the Reluctant Leader™ syndrome, I frequently get asked interesting and enlightening questions. Allow me to share one of them with you.

What do business leaders feel is the biggest challenge to their organization’s sustainability?

From my experiences in working with a variety of organizations in many industries, I believe that identifying the next generation of leaders and grooming them to lead successfully is one of the most challenging concerns that senior leaders face. This issue comes up often because I see an unresolved crisis in leadership:

A lack of commitment to grooming future leaders.

Not investing in a leader-generating program creates a severe weakness in an organization’s ability to thrive and grow. In order to overcome this crisis, your company must have a specific plan to identify, develop, and then retain leaders.

This leadership issue topped the list of executive fears in a recent and ongoing survey. Michael Haid, senior vice president of talent management for Right Management, the company that produces the survey, said, “Lean times make it hard for organizations seeking to recruit, retain or develop future leaders.” In a survey by his company that asked about an organization’s most pressing human resource challenges, 31% of executives say the lack of high-potential leaders is hurting their organization.


Strategy for Developing a Viable Pipeline

The solution is for you to develop an organization-wide strategy and activate it immediately. It generally takes five years to groom a senior leader and more than two years to get a novice ready to lead with competence.

Your corporate change agents must achieve five deliverables that will address your own lack-of-future-leader crisis.

  1. Create an internal leadership university.

This will require a significant change in the culture of your organization. Most innovative and successful companies have one, fund it, and make it an aspect of their long-range strategy.

  1. Define and build a specific succession plan.

Make sure your plan addresses these vital questions of who, when, and how.

–          Who are the future leaders?

–          When will they be ready to lead?

–          How will they gain the experience necessary to lead?

  1. Define the leader attributes and skills for your future needs.

All too often, organizations look to their present day needs and merely create a role for that. You must look forward five years and decide the type and style of leadership you will need then. Write a job description ‘from the future.’

  1. Train and mentor continuously and constantly.

Learning how to be a real leader is mastering the art of leadership, which takes time and reinforcement. Get these future leaders to work on all aspects of your business, so that they will have a global perspective.

For each of your emerging leaders, assign both a coach and a mentor. Find experiences outside of your company where they can practice leadership skills. Be sure to provide them with support and feedback.

You want to provide the same support that coaches use to develop championship caliber athletes.

  1. Have a plan B.

If you are unable to identify internal candidates, then you must transform your recruiting, screening, and hiring practices to bring in people with leadership potential.

If your organization is small, consider engaging in a joint venture with another company or even a college to develop your own leadership university.


An example of a company with a leadership university model is Boeing. Boeing tracks every one of their leaders and leaders-in-training, making sure that they gain experience in every aspect of the business. A whole department is dedicated to this process and Boeing turns the feedback and accomplishments of these leaders into graphs and pictures to visually track their progress as up-and-coming leaders.

Another example comes from one of the big four CPA firms. Deloitte U is “a place where Deloitte’s own could gather to learn lessons in leadership, whether they are new hires, recently promoted, or senior executives looking to continuously improve. The goal is for every U.S. employee to visit Deloitte U at least once every couple of years, depending on their assignments and leadership training needs. In addition to helping Deloitte produce effective leaders, the facility helps the company attract and retain top talent.” Deloitte offers use of this tool to its clients who need to develop leaders.

The High Cost of Failure

If your organization fails to develop a culture that identifies and develops leaders, I guarantee its future will include these.

–          You will lose your competitive edge and die a slow death.

–          Experience a significant loss of market share.

–          Suffer from a stodgy or bureaucratic culture.

–          Get gobbled up or put out of business by an organization that has visionary leaders.

–          Be unable to attract the attention of the tremendously talented millennials now entering the workforce.

–          Continue to suffer from the reluctant leader syndrome – having talented employees who refuse to take on leadership roles and responsibilities.