blog leadership Nov 13, 2023

There is a major gap that I see occurring within organizations that I call The Leadership Gap.

This isn’t the gap that occurs between a person making the jump from being a front-line contributor to a leadership role — although that gap certainly exists. No, this is the gap between companies that develop future leaders and those that hope for the best from future leaders.

In 2015, The World Economic Forum identified the gap in leadership as the third challenge to be addressed, and 86% of respondents to their survey agreed that there was a leadership crisis. Furthermore, according to consulting group Brandon Hall, it is estimated that 71 % of leaders already in their role aren’t even prepared to lead organizations in the future.

Often organizations think about succession planning; however, there is a gaping hole within this practice. The term is used to describe the planning that occurs to replace “old leaders who may be retiring, leaving, or dying,” but identifying the replacement is not the same as developing the replacement.

Typically, that term is used when organizations aren’t considering their full process of talent development. Once the hiring is done and the person has their seat on the bus, it’s as if we forget that we will need other seats if the bus grows, and we will need people to fill those seats, too — and it’s really best if those are filled by people who are already on the bus.

According to Development Dimensions International, companies that can fill key positions from the inside have 3.8 times higher leadership success rates than those who hire from outside the organization.

The growth of a company can stagnate for many reasons; however, closing the leadership gap is one sure way to improve your company for the better.

Here are 3 ways to do this, even when your resources may be limited:

Mentoring: There is no substitute for starting leader-lead mentoring groups. Think of that one leader you have (maybe it’s you), who really knocks it out of the park. This is a person who has strong emotional intelligence and really knows how to lead. Imagine what it would might be like if the employees that you’ve identified as up-and-comers could spend 45-minutes a month with that person?

The good news is they can. Provide access to this model leader in a group setting (either face-to-face or remotely) to engage with those impressionable and eager learners. Allow the leader to teach some general tricks of the trade through conversation and ongoing Q & A.

Books a great add to this process, too. The strongest book choices are those that provide information that can be directly applied to your organization. While the personal memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant may be incredibly compelling, consider if there is actual business application that can be used with your teams.

Create an Experience: You don’t need fancy content (although it adds a nice touch) and a lot of bells and whistles for people to learn some basic skills of leadership. What you do need is to create an experience for them.

Think of a project you’ve been sitting on for months, one that if you just had more help, you could get off the ground. Remember that group of amazing up-and-comers? How about letting them handle it? In fancy corporate speak, this could be known as a task force. Call it whatever you like, but the point is to give these eager individuals the opportunity to lead.

They can learn the skills of managing a project and all that goes into getting work done with others. They could learn about managing a budget and engage with others across the organization to accomplish a goal. The possibilities are endless and the experience invaluable.

Ask for Feedback: This one might seem an odd departure from the other two, but here’s the reason that it makes my list.

First, one of the most important skills that every leader needs to learn is how to give and receive feedback. This is an opportunity to support others in building that skill.

Second, getting feedback from a group of your eager-to-lead-but-not-yet-leaders can also support you in learning more about where the company may need to direct its energy.

Third, remember that you’ve identified these folks as potential leaders. It won’t take much to discern how insightful they are (or aren’t) about the future direction of the company. There’s nothing like someone suggesting Margarita Mondays to make it immediately clear that perhaps this person isn’t ready to be driving the bus.

Comment below and let us know your strategies for developing those who will lead your organization to grow and thrive.

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