Grow leaders from within

If you are currently working in a leadership role within the company you work for, ask yourself: “If anything happened to me today, who could step in and take over my responsibilities?”  The best organisations do not over-rely on recruiting firms to ‘fix’ their lack-of-leadership problem. They look inside and set up processes and programmes which ensure that their ‘Leadership Funnel’ is as full as their ‘sales funnel’.

Research shows that planning for leadership succession should be part and parcel of the way a company is managed. Grooming potential leaders is a process that takes years and is not an ad hoc activity. Companies commonly have a small core group of leaders who either started or significantly grew the organisation. But the true test of leadership isn’t doing the work yourself. It is the ability to develop a culture that fosters the growth of new leaders.

Three things help transmit this type of culture. First, there must be a definition of leaders, along with accountability for the results leaders are expected to produce. Second, a development and training program must be created to help newer people round out their leadership skills. Third, the vision and energy or ‘torch’ of the business must be passed on from current leaders to newer staff. When newer people see that you are willing to invest time and resources in their professional development, they understand what is important and what is rewarded within your company.

Jason Jennings lists some values and initiatives in his book entitled Think Big Act Small to help strengthen internal leadership development:

  • Lead by example. Let the future leaders see you model the core values of the organisation.
  • Make everything a team effort. Make sure everyone feels like they are part of the organisation’s success.  Promote a collaborative decision making process.
  • Acknowledge and keep informed. Great organisations communicate internally. Make sure everyone knows what’s happening within the organisation. The best way to do this is with a newsletter or email.  The communication can be monthly or quarterly.  It’s also a great tool to recognise accomplishments.
  • Constantly evaluate and coach. Don’t hide in your office. Get out and communicate with people. Let them know what they are doing well and not well, tell them why and how to improve.  People want and need feedback. It’s how they grow and learn.
  • Make people want to stay. People want a reason (why) to work. Let them know why they matter.
  • Have everyone identify their successor. Remember what Drucker told Maxwell, “There’s no success without a successor.”
  • Keep doing it. Rinse and repeat daily.

The companies that do the best job of consistently growing revenues grow their own leaders. Period! – Jason Jennings, Think Big Act Small.

Creating a leadership-based culture

One way to ensure a successful transition is to build a culture of strong leadership whereby employees show effective leadership at all levels. Strengthening leadership capacity throughout the organisation can enable a highly successful transition by reducing dependency on a single individual, such as a certain senior leader or key person.

Creating a knowledge-based culture

A leadership transition often leads to the loss of critical tacit knowledge that has built up throughout the years. Strategies such as intentional documentation, attention to effective systems and processes, and deliberate knowledge sharing are just a beginning. Creating a so-called ‘knowledge-based culture’ can deliver dividends when an organisation is faced with succession of a leader.

A change has to occur in the way companies are sourcing leadership talent. Rather than look outward when a leader is needed, they should instead continuously look inward to identify candidates with leadership aptitude and invest in honing their skills with development programmes. Companies need to learn to identify and quantify their talent needs, and the gaps that exist within the system. Once you have defined where you are and where you want to be, it becomes easier to fill up the gaps.

Succession planning recognises that some jobs are the lifeblood of the organisation and too critical to be left vacant or filled by any but the best qualified persons. Effectively done, succession planning is critical to mission success and creates an effective process for recognising, developing, and retaining top leadership talent.

Stay realistic

While development plans and succession charts aren’t promises, they are often communicated as such and can lead to frustration if they aren’t realistic. The bottom line is – don’t jerk around high performing leaders with unrealistic development expectations. Only give the promise of succession if there is a realistic chance of its happening!

Maurice Kerrigan Africa delivers high quality, unique and practical training and development courses for all business levels. Through tailored and blended learning methods, they can help you leverage the potential of your human capital. The people in your organisation will realise their own value and purpose, and will maximise their performance in the workplace.

Click here to look at Maurice Kerrigan Africa’s training schedule or to make a booking.

To find out more about the training courses offered by Maurice Kerrigan Africa or to arrange an appointment, simply call +27 11 794 1251 or email



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