Now or Later. When is the Best Time for CEOs to Develop their Leaders?

Now or Later. When is the Best Time for CEOs to Develop their Leaders?

This has been a hot topic lately in the conversations I am having with CEOs, and People and Culture executives. When is the best time to develop your leaders?

Based on my experience, at the earliest opportunity and every day from that point on. As soon as you introduce people into your organisation, they should become part of your leadership development strategy so that you are creating a continuous leadership talent pipeline. One that extends throughout your organisation.

Your leaders will come from all parts of your organisation. They will not only be the people who initially stand out as future leaders.

It is important to recognise that there is no perfect time to undertake leadership development. It should be an ongoing and everyday occurrence, as well as having strategic programmes that are designed to uplift specific areas of leadership, or specific cohorts of leadership in your organisation. The thing is, you never know when you are going to need to tap into your leadership talent pipeline. So, be ready.

‘The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them.’

John Maxwell

The research shows us that the majority of organisations worldwide believe that you should have a deep leadership talent pipeline and that you should proactively be developing leaders at all levels. The truth of the matter is that only about 11% of organisations actively develop their leadership capability, which means you have potential for an enormous leadership performance gap. This is a risk.

Think about this. When you need a person to step up to the next level of leadership, what happens if you do not have anyone at all? Or perhaps you do have someone, yet they are not ready? It is incredibly difficult to be successful.

Instead of this situation, consider setting your people up for success. You just never know when you are going to need people to rise to the next level of leadership.

Here are a few scenarios:

☛ A leader resigns.
☛ Maybe a leader is promoted, leaving a leadership vacancy.
☛ Maybe the organisation has grown and expanded and there are more leadership roles to fill.
☛ Perhaps there are maternity and paternity leave vacancies to fill.
☛ Merging with another organization creates new and different leadership opportunities.
☛ You have a grand plan which generates a series of new projects and programmes of work. All of which need leadership.
☛ You want to lead significant transformation, everything from culture, to systems implementation, to an organisational restructure.
☛ And so much more …

These scenarios all require a broader group of leaders ready to participate.

If you do not have people in your leadership talent pipeline, with already developed leadership capability, then it leaves you exposed and at risk. Who is ready to fill the leadership gap?

Reflect on your own organisation.

How many people are in the succession plan for all of the different leadership roles?

And the leadership roles you have not yet identified?

My Dad always said, ‘You need an heir and a spare for every role.’

I suggest you consider having multiple people identified, who are ready to step into leadership roles, or at the very least on the way to being ready to step into future roles. This does not mean having the same person targeted for multiple roles, but rather that each leadership role has one, two, or maybe even three people identified as potential candidates for the role.

Reflect again. In your organisation, how big is the gap between what you are likely to need in future-ready leaders and what you have right now? At every level. Executive, Senior, Middle and Early leaders.

When is the best time to close this gap?

People who are ready to lead have a much higher chance of achieving high levels of leadership performance. People who are not ready to lead are going to be far less likely to achieve this leadership performance and are at risk of becoming poor performers in the leadership space, simply because they are not yet ready. Do not put your people in impossible positions. Give them every chance for success by offering them leadership development now and every day.

The longer you leave it the harder it becomes to close this leadership performance gap.

So when is the best time to close the leadership capability gap? As soon as possible, because over time, the gap widens, and it becomes harder and harder to close. And anyone who has tried to build the aeroplane while flying it, to close the leadership gap when it is already significant, knows that it is a very challenging undertaking. And your organisation and the people in your organisation will suffer while you are trying to close this significant gap.

The earlier you take action, the easier it is to close the gap. The less time it takes, the less effort it requires and the lower the investment required. Procrastinate, put off or delay taking action and you have a far bigger challenge to close a far bigger leadership gap.

➥ What is it that you need to do to develop your leaders, so they are ready, and you minimize the leadership gap?
➥ What is it that you can do right now to begin or supplement the way you are developing your leaders?
➥ What do you need to do to create a broad leadership talent pipeline that you can tap into whenever you need to?

I’d love to know your thoughts.

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