In this constantly evolving environment of today, leadership is much more complex and leadership roles are incessantly sprouting. Majority of leaders struggle to bridge the gap between strategy formulations with its day-to-day implementation. Too often we have seen that strategy is taken up as a ‘fire-and-forget activity’ as strategic execution requires considerably more time, commitment and resources than developing the plan itself. However, we seldom attribute such challenges with the existing leadership gap which is generally overlooked in an organization. The failure to assess leadership capacity before launching any strategic initiative can leave organizations with significant consequences and boomerang unexpectedly. It is really necessary for top managers to assess their company's leadership gap and find ways to close it by integrating leadership with strategy development.
Most CEOs will agree that leadership is important when it comes to new strategies, yet few assess their leadership fissures precisely. With higher aspirations and radical shift by organizations in strategic direction, the leadership gap is seen widening much more than earlier times. The consequences of this inattention may prove fatal to an organization in the longer term and very few companies recognize the need for enhanced leadership capacity that the new strategy may bring to the table. In fact, in the forthcoming years, a persistent leadership gap will be the cause for an inexorable decline in the quality of leaders. And one critical misstep can jeopardize the entire business operation. So, what can organizations do to address this challenge?
Long term approach
Regardless of the existing market conditions, a global ﬁnancial services company based in the UK decided to hire the best global talent. It then rotated their new leaders through every critical aspect of their operations. They positioned themselves ahead of the time to meet their strategic objectives for the next three years and this investment in human capital paid them rightfully. By building their leadership bench in advance, they drove well in most of the new economies that they entered and the company is seen rising high with their strong leadership strategies even till today. In another similar instance, a South Korean company followed a long term approach of re-aligning their leadership development strategies to successfully expand their core business into Japan. In short, organizations must plan to hire and groom potential leaders ahead of market need and then help them build the internal networks necessary for long-term success.
Empower and cultivate the middle band
It is commonly seen that many executives spend years building their technical skills and industry knowledge; however they are not fully trained to develop expertise in areas such as building networks and managing stakeholders. In one of a progressive organization, all the middle level executives created a personal development plan related to the challenges faced by them anticipating the next line of new role they may land up in the coming years. The middle layer then created a list of developmental activities that would help them cultivate the next line of leadership qualities beforehand. It is time that organizations begin to cultivate leaders for speciﬁc roles one or two years down the road by mapping their knowledge, skills, behavior, and mind-set for future roles.
Leadership team rebalancing
Leadership development strategies should never stop even after someone moves into the new role. In fact, organizations which typically organize career paths along a linear model of moving up a vertical hierarchy within the same role needs to diversify. Regular evaluation and rebalancing the leadership team must be carried on by reassigning complementary strengths which must not be restricted to role fitment only. Hence, re-designing of leadership development journey must take into account an increased cross organizational access to talent through team rebalancing.
To summarize, organizations need to break the vicious cycle in which good leaders are moved haphazardly leaving less time to develop younger talent resulting in ill-prepared and inexperienced group of successors. It’s time to plan a shift from supply-driven to demand-driven leadership planning by assessing current roles and gaps in leadership supply. With stronger demand forecasting capabilities, organizations must align leadership strategy to organizational strategy and not mere job roles. They need to design succession processes that meet future needs and not just current leadership roles. Hence, do remember to plan your leadership strategy based on projected long term demand and not just current supply.