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How to nurture your emerging leaders

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How to nurture your emerging leaders

Among companies today, one of the greatest challenges is the demand on senior leadership to develop emerging talent into effective leaders within a two to five year period. This must be achieved, despite the fact that the type of skills and acumen that is required would ordinarily take seven to fifteen years to develop. The challenge is especially great in fields like engineering, where technical experience is critical for senior leadership. However, younger generations are less likely to stay the distance in order to build strong leadership capability within one organisation.

So what is the best approach to talent management?

Talent management at its most effective looks first to the business strategy of the organisation, and asks certain questions. For example, given our business life cycle stage, what skills and capabilities do we need in the business to ensure that we meet our business goals and priorities for the next five to ten years?

Only once these questions have been answered, is it then appropriate to identify what capabilities your emerging talent needs to carry in order to attain these goals. If these capabilities are immature, then a developmental plan to grow them is an imperative.

Too often, talent is assessed and elevated based on past performance and potential. But it's critical to look at elements of personal aspiration and engagement as well.

We are usually so quick to focus on the technical and business skills necessary for leadership, and yet we all too often neglect the interpersonal and personal skills that often make or break the leader. Adaptability, responsibility, ownership, resilience and effective communication skills become key qualities to develop for success.

However, remember that there is no 'rubber stamp' solution for a group of emerging talent in your organisation. Rather, one needs to personalise the developmental plans for each individual. This is more costly, yet will in the long term yield better results for your initiative. Learning and engagement opportunities will exist both within the business and in the classroom. On-the-job learning through stretch assignments and rotation are important. But so too are the formal training programmes and developmental conversations that happen in mentorship and coaching sessions.

At the same time though, the effective development of talent cannot happen in isolation or have its focus on one or two candidates. Rather, the development of a strategic team and their joint effectiveness will most definitely yield better results and minimise business risk. The whole team needs to understand the direction and purpose of the business strategy. They need to share the values of the business and practice working together.

The role and attitude of leaders exiting the business is key, as they must look for opportunities to open doors and create visibility for the emerging leaders. Their willingness to embrace this role is the pivotal point that can make or break your programme.

Storytelling is an essential tool for exiting leaders to teach the emerging leaders how to lead the organisation. The new talent needs to learn how to ask powerful questions, and to extract key learning and principles from the organisational stories and anecdotes that are told in the organisation.

Often, the emerging leaders have proven themselves technically in the business. They may also be good managers of others. The gap usually lies in the knowledge and application of that knowledge in leading a business. The learning curve for these leaders is steep. They need to shift their point of reference significantly to embrace the intricacies of managing an organisation.

No initiative is foolproof - economies rise and fall, offers are made outside your organisation, people explore entrepreneurship and more. So it is important to have a strategy for handling an emerging leader if they derail. But don't let the derailment of one individual impact the overall effectiveness of your talent initiative. Learn from the experience and get back on the path to success...you need these leaders to excel.

Last modified on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 12:28
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