Friday, 30 January 2015


Young Leaders

The change of seasons brings to mind changes that we see in work and leadership. As seasons come and go in your work cycle, consider how older leaders shift into part-time roles in the organization and how younger leaders assume new levels of responsibility and leadership. 

While it’s a life process that naturally occurs in all industry sectors, the best leadership transitions occur with those young leaders that have been developed and equipped to assume their new roles.
With this in mind, it’s a good time to pause to think about think about the seasons ahead and grow your younger leaders.

Choosing Leaders in the Military

When speaking about my POW experience and the lessons learned there, a common question from the audience is how we chose our leaders in that situation. That’s a great question because the burden of leading in that cauldron was often painful, always unpredictable, and not a position that most people would want. Fortunately we didn’t have to compete or debate about who would take command; in remote situations like this, it’s clear military policy that the senior person (based on rank and date of promotion) takes charge and everyone else follows.
In normal conditions, the military is constantly training and grooming every person for higher leadership responsibilities.
The heavy turnover from reassignment, separations, and mandatory retirement at the twenty- to thirty-year window makes succession planning a vital part of normal military planning and operations.
But many civilian organizations don’t see a pressing need, and many don’t have a system in place for developing and evaluating leaders. Do you have a vision for developing leaders? Do you see the need and are you willing to invest the time and energy in this process?

Short and Long Term Benefits 

Developing leaders does take time and money, but it also has great short term benefits such as -
  • Having a built-in system for instilling the values and leadership principles that are important to you.
  • Building relationships in workshops and classes to enhance functional collaboration and break down silos.
  • Gaining better trained leaders at every level.
  • Creating higher morale and better retention among top performers.
Long term benefits are even more strategic because research shows that hiring from within is the way to go especially at higher levels. Developing your own pool of leaders from which to choose managers, directors and executives reduces your risks in several ways –
  • You’re maximizing “the known” and minimizing the “unknown” of hiring.
    • You know these folks and have seen them perform under stress.
  • They already know you and their working environment.
    • Corporate values and expectations
    • Organizational history
    • Customers, community, and competition
Granted, there are times when you may need to bring in an outsider to stir the pot or tap into a resource you don’t have on board. But when you do, the risks go up.
Hiring is one of the most difficult challenges leaders face.
If you search the web, you’ll see that the estimates for the cost of a bad hire run from 30% of the individual’s salary to three times their annual salary. In some cases, it could be much more when you consider the energy lost to the executive teams and the opportunity loss of not having the right person on board.

Intentional Leadership Development

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve been fortunate to work with some great organizations. The best ones usually put considerable effort and resources into developing their next generation of leaders at every level from first line supervisor to the executive level. What about your organization? Do you have a focus on growing your on leaders? What programs and processes do you have in place to make this happen? If so how will you evaluate it and if not, who will help you build and grow it?
Remember, you must be diligent in planning ahead to have the best leadership transition possible. This season of the year is a good time to be grateful for the energetic young leaders in your organization and plan ahead for equipping them for the future.
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