Why Wait? Start Developing Future Leaders Now

by Julie Winkle Giulioni | Posted | Learning

Why Wait? Start Developing Future Leaders Now

Research conducted by Zenger-Folkman suggests that 88 percent of development effort within organizations goes to Gen Xers and Boomers. Only 12 percent goes to Generation Y, the people who will be running the show in the not-too-distant future. Perhaps it’s time to invest more in developing the new entrants to the workplace… especially when it comes to leadership.

Leadership development is the Swiss-army knife of human resources, training, and the front line. It offers more benefits concurrently than nearly any other organizational intervention available.

At face value, instilling leadership skills grows capacity, builds bench strength, and contributes to business results. But under the surface, it’s a powerful force to drive engagement, commitment, retention and the ability to attract top talent.

At a time when most organizations have few promotions and formal "moves" available to employees, an in-role focus on leadership development can help to sustain motivation for ambitious young workers.

Many of these you workers have come to believe that if they’re not moving forward, they’re falling behind. And it’s not that difficult to build this needed focus, because there are so many vehicles available to develop leaders.

Training your future leaders

You’re likely providing leadership development to some portion of the population already. And some of it is available via webinars and elearning, which can accommodate nearly unlimited numbers of people for no additional cost.

Forward-thinking organizations are beginning to open the doors to such learning to more individuals.

They’re allowing employees to self-nominate and self-select into leadership courses that will help them perform better in their current roles while readying themselves for supervision and management roles in the future.

Beyond building additional capacity, this approach offers insightful data about who’s willing to commit discretionary effort. And the results of these learning activities can be evaluative feedback that will inform the succession planning process.

It’s a way to get a glimpse of leadership potential prior to anointing someone a manager — when the stakes are not yet great.

Create a leadership mentoring program

New entrants to the workplace with an interest in leadership benefit mightily from being paired up with others who’ve been in the management and supervisory trenches for a while.

But the benefits of leadership mentoring flow in both directions. Mentors have the opportunity to think more deeply about what they do and how they do it. They may feel a renewed sense of commitment and enthusiasm for their work. And mentees frequently have skills and insights that can contribute a fresh perspective and perhaps improve work processes and outcomes.

Support on-the-job leadership development

According to research from the Center for Creative Leadership and others, we learn 70 percent of what we need to be effective in our work informally through on-the-job training and experiences in the workplace itself.

The bottom line is that most people learn best, and most, from experience.

And the number of experiences that can be engineered for aspiring leaders is nearly unlimited.

  • Invite them to attend a conference.
  • Allow them to shadow another leader.
  • Bring them along to management or client meetings.
  • Give them a chance to take on new responsibilities like facilitating a meeting, leading a project team, interviewing candidates for an open position, or representing the team on cross-functional efforts.
  • And more…

These experiences are synergistic and mutually beneficial. As the employee develops leadership capacity and explores his/her interest in possible future leadership roles, the organization gets real and necessary work done. It’s the kind of "two-fer" that most managers would jump at — if they took a few minutes to think about it.

Push the boundaries of leadership development

So, rather than reserving leadership development for those who are more seasoned or have been with the organization longer, what if we started freely sharing leadership development opportunities with all who are interested?

What if we found ways to allow Gen Y workers to build and exercise their leadership muscles? What if we allowed people to determine if leadership was for them before taking on a formal supervisory and managerial role?

We just might keep more people engaged, build a much deeper and more prepared leadership bench, and thrive as organizations.

Your turn: How are you pushing the boundaries of leadership development in your organization?

Frontline Managers: Are They Given the Leadership Tools to Succeed?

Learn why leadership development is critical for organizational success.

Download Now

Frontline Managers: Are They Given the Leadership Tools to Succeed?

Learn why leadership development is critical for organizational success.

Download Now

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