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Creating New Leaders from Within

While the predicted tsunami of Baby Boomer retirements has not yet materialized, the fact remains that 42% of the workforce will become able to retire by 2017 and 70% within the next 10 years.1 The question for all organizations is how to best prepare for this significant change in leadership and management?

Many organizations look externally for candidates. But with intentional planning and preparation, new leaders and managers can be built through internal processes. The following outline of questions provides a foundation for creating such a process.

What are we trying to achieve?
Every organization has a mission. It has linchpin positions or capacities that keep momentum moving toward fulfilling that mission. A linchpin is a special pin that is used to keep axles on vehicles. In organizations, a linchpin keeps the team functioning smoothly, delivering what is needed – with a great attitude. A linchpin manages operations efficiently. A linchpin looks to the future, translating plans into actions while remembering the lessons of the past. A linchpin knows that it is about relationships throughout the system. Can you state the mission; and, list the linchpin positions and what they achieve for your organization?

What does it mean to be an effective linchpin?
Take your linchpin list and apply the “know-do-be” algorithm. Create a one-sentence statement of what makes someone effective in each linchpin position. For example:

  • Know skills that allow the person to manage people, processes, and technology.
  • Do behave in ways consistent with achieving results in building positive relationships, thinking strategically, and communicating well.
  • Be a person who is an athlete in self-awareness, practices trustworthy and authentic leadership, and has a calling to serve others.

What are the essential linchpin competencies?
Now add a column to your list that gets specific about capacities and competencies that are necessary for success in each linchpin position. These should include knowledge and expertise, behavioral competencies, and critical success factors. Again, the examples are general; your list should be as specific as possible, limited by the needs of the linchpin.

Knowledge and expertise might include:

  • Possesses technical skills
  • Understands how to cultivate productive relationships
  • Communicates skills and values
  • Develops resources
  • Understands organization finances
  • Asks the right questions
  • Works across complex organization systems

Behavioral Competencies might include:

  • Self-managing
  • Exemplifies integrity
  • Resilient in uncertainty
  • Adapts to new environments
  • Builds trust
  • Manages strategic relationships
  • Influences others
  • Communicates confidently
  • Handles conflict resourcefully
  • Mentors and coaches others

Critical Success Factors might include

  • Committed to the organization’s values
  • Innovative and creative
  • Understands the financial impact of decisions

What actions need to be taken?
Add a fourth column that lists names of persons in your organization who have high potential for leading and managing each linchpin position. For each person identified, create an action plan. Their plan should include opportunities to expand knowledge, grow behavioral competencies, and be given opportunities to act. Here are concrete ideas to use in systematically developing leaders and managers:

  • Job rotation
  • Special project assignments
  • Action learning: study and make recommendation on a significant issue
  • Individual coaching and feedback
  • Targeted training – online or in person – in operations and leadership
  • Opportunities for role transition – allowing them to serve temporarily in a linchpin capacity while someone is on vacation or leave.

What other actions will support this process?
How will you communicate this information throughout your organization? Would a profile and checklist for each linchpin capacity allow everyone in the organization to understand the requirements and development path? How might you build this into your performance reviews? When and how will you start building your leadership pipeline?

There are many compelling reasons to begin building an actionable plan for developing future leaders. What first steps will you take to begin planning today?

1Government Accounting Office

Other reading:
Godin, S. (2011). “Linchpin: Are you indispensable?” Penguin Group, New York, NY.
Charam, R. (2012). “The Leadership Pipeline.” Wiley, San Francisco, CA.

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