The Challenge of Finding [Keeping] Great Leaders
Have you ever watched an employee with amazing leadership potential walk out the door to look for growth and development opportunities elsewhere? Why is this? It seems that many companies are starving for great leadership but don't appear to know how to identify those employees with great potential who are literally standing right in front of them. In fact, in an organizational survey, 45% said they had no (or not sure) formal process for identifying potential leaders [i]. It's sad really; to see so much potential just walk right out the door. It is also symptomatic of a disengaged employee system with no (or not effective) employee development or mentorship programs.
This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. Over the years, I have mentored/coached a number of employees who showed amazing leadership potential and were starving for opportunities to grow and develop their manager/leadership skillsets within an organization. The challenge is that these companies didn't follow-up the engagement of these highly skilled individuals which leads me to wonder what was missing.
Missing the Importance
Many organizations are operating with a "revolving door" policy and 1) believe that there are very few with leadership potential, 2) don't consider leadership/succession as a priority at the C-Suite/Board level, and 3) are focused on more immediate organizational challenges. These issues result in organizations with no solid practices designed to identify or keep leaders. This phenomenon is creating an environment with no "best practice" to engage and develop future leaders.
Not realizing the importance of engaging employees and those with great leadership potential is hindering your productivity and growth potential. Ask yourselves; are you an asset or liability to your organization? Those who hire and cultivate leaders achieve greater success than those that don't.
Creating a program to formally identify employees with potential and investing in them by offering formal development opportunities (Career Pathing) and support will result in a cultural shift of employee commitment and engagement. Surveys show that 95% of those that are formally identified as a "high potential" employee are motivated by their jobs and 96% are committed to the organization [ii]. Additionally, identifying great leaders who want to surround themselves with and cultivate/produce other leaders will increase productivity and engagement of others.
This program needs to be a priority at all levels, especially among the senior to middle-management levels as this is where many employees reside that have ambitions to move upward or laterally to other positions. Moreover, middle-management should be required to identify leadership potential among the lower levels and engage those that are looking for "more" in their positions (think "Millennials").
It seems that many fear surrounding themselves with greatness which is unfortunate. If we are only as good as our weakest link, then wouldn't it make sense to surround ourselves with others who want to attain greatness? Instead of fearing others, we should embrace what others have to offer, their differences, and their potential.
Additionally, identifying great leaders who want to surround themselves with and cultivate/produce other leaders will increase productivity and engagement of others. We need to continually invest in our leaders (think Starbucks, Disney, or GE) or watch them walk out the door and head elsewhere. Remember, the strength of an organization is a direct result of its leaders and its ability to cultivate leaders from within.
©  Darrielle Ehrheart | May 14, 2015
Maxwell, J. (2003). Developing the leaders around you: How to help others reach their full potential. Thomas Nelson Inc.
Campbell, M., & Smith, R. (2010). High-potential talent: A view from inside the leadership pipeline. Center for creative leadership.
Effron, M., Greenslade, S., & Salob, M. (2005). Growing great leaders: Does it really matter? HR.Human Resource Planning, 28(3), 18-23.
Monarth, H. (2015, January 22). Evaluate Your Leadership Development Program. Harvard Business Review.
[i] Campbell, M., & Smith, R. (2010). High-potential talent: A view from inside the leadership pipeline. Center for creative leadership.
[ii] Campbell, M., & Smith, R. (2010). High-potential talent: A view from inside the leadership pipeline. Center for creative leadership.