Leadership Development from within

This is an era in which the demand for leadership in an organization greatly exceeds the supply. Every major organization is attempting to hire “stars”, offering compensation to entice the best and the brightest. These desperate attempts to recruit outsiders suggest the inadequacy of the leadership within the company.

What is needed, therefore, is an approach that will allow organizations to keep their own leadership pipelines full and flowing.

Organizations often do not look at development of leaders as an integral part of business strategy, viewing it purely as a part of human resources function. A common organizational mindset is to view jobs as merely work to be done and not as developmental assignments.

Organizations need to consider the leadership development needs of a first time manager as opposed to those of a functional manager. There is instead a focus only on personality traits and technical competence. They promote people with the expectation that they have the knowledge to handle a job rather than having the knowledge to handle a particular level of leadership. It is assumed that if a certain someone has performed well at one task, he/she is likely to perform well at the next one also.

Therefore it is no surprise that the leadership pipeline runs dry. Company after company has decided that its leadership problem can be solved by finding and nurturing top talent. But they are forgetting that this can be used only as a tactic and not as a strategy. It is but obvious that a company should hire any individual who is talented and available for the benefit of the organization, however, strategically this often fails due to scarcity of highly talented individuals. This tactic also pays a toll on the organization funds to retain such individuals who do not stay long enough to develop fully and master the apt skills needed by the organization.

Today’s companies need effective leaders at every possible level and at ever possible location in the organization. To live up to the expectations of the customers they need more fully performing leaders,which imply finding methods to ensure that more and more managers will be prepared for and placed at the right leadership level.

If more leaders are prepared and developed at different levels within the company, the need to recruit such outsiders will diminish and which in turn will only prove profitable for the entire organization.

The question now arises of how to identify a potential leader. Can today’s average sales person become tomorrow’s ‘right for the job’ sales leader? Or can an average engineer become the right production leader and eventually Plant Head?

What this indirectly implies is that the company’s management has to keep an open eye, an optimistic mind about who might become the right person for a given leadership position. People who are skilled technicians might have the potential to be managers; managers who seem entrenched in their functions might have the potential to lead cross functional teams or functions.

“Leadership development happens through hard work and willingness to take on responsibility by the individual, experience it and learn from it.”

Most of today’s young engineers and managers are not prepared to put in such hard work for developing themselves as leaders of tomorrow. They are always in a hurry to gain things materialistically and thereby neglect their own development. Leadership development cannot happen only by virtue of experience. It requires systematic effort to build various skills which are needed for a given leadership position in an organization. The companies are also not having adequate programmes for identifying such potential leaders. They do not make the necessary investment for developing such potential leaders who are the key to their growth and development.

Therefore I suggest there should be continuous organized efforts by the company for developing and grooming leaders at different levels such as:

· Level 1: leaders who can lead teams

· Level 2: leaders who can manage managers and projects

· Level 3: leaders who can manage functions or large business processes

· Level 4: leaders who can manage business

· Level 5: leaders who can manage companies

Companies should design and adopt appropriate programmes to develop leaders for the various levels mentioned above and thereby create a Leadership Pool. To mention a few such programmes:

· Mentorship and Coaching programmes for developing young leaders

· Job Rotation programme

· Redeployment programmes from one location to another for getting cross-cultural and

location exposure

· Job Posting in different countries for getting global exposure as part of Global Managers’

Development Programmes

· Leadership Development programmes organized through established Management School

· On the Job training through project work

· Understudy program below senior leaders

· Acting as Project Managers for small,medium or large sized projects as per requirement

· Active member of a cross-functional team for any policy or decision making process

· Active member of company’s strategic planning group

· Active member of Company’s mergers,acquisition & integration activities etc.

If the company develops such systematic programmes and sees leadership development as a strategic process and not just a tactical one, then they will be able address their leadership issues effectively today as well as for future requirements.

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