A Gap in Your Senior Leadership Bench Strength

The baby boomer cohort (commonly accepted age range: 46-64) are the proverbial pig-in-the-python, demographically speaking. Economists raise the alarm of a looming shortage of workers when the “pig” has passed on through. But is this true for executive and senior leaders? There is no shortage of warm bodies to move up to the C suite. But, says a joint study by Pearson and Executive Development Associates, unless employers start to act now, there will be a shortage of people who are fully prepared to operate at an executive level.

Entitled “2009/2010 Trends in Executive Development,” the research reveals a mixed picture with respect to those managers who show general potential to move into the top level over the next 3-5 years. On the plus side, they have high integrity, ability to deliver results and manage multiple operational priorities, and strong technical skills and knowledge.

There is a serious gap, current senior executives surveyed said, in two critical areas:

  1. Critical Thinking (strategic perspective, ability to create a vision, a system understanding of the enterprise, ability to shift back and forth from big picture thinking to operational and tactical issues)
  2. Motivating and Influencing Others (leading change, inspiring and engaging employees)

These both involve complex constellations of competencies, the first cognitive and the second emotional/relational. They take time to develop. Here are three things you can start doing immediately:

  1. Put a comprehensive leadership development program and process in place. This includes combining formal and informal on-the-job development, coaching, and training. See my April 8/10 blog post for more on this. As well, it calls for some form of leadership development pipeline and succession strategy that feeds ready talent onto your future executive bench.
  2. Give your high potential managers real opportunities to tackle the kinds of business issues that are fuzzy, with many non-quantifiable variables and with no clearly superior solution. Whether they succeed, fail or do just OK on these, what they will learn about themselves, mixing metrics with intuition, and involving the wisdom of others will be invaluable in mastering Critical Thinking.
  3. Develop their emotional intelligence. This includes the ability to build relationships with employees, boss, peers, customers, and key others within and without the enterprise, listening, managing feelings (theirs and others’), enrolling and exciting others about the vision, etc.

Bonie Hagemann, Executive Development Associates’ CEO said,

The results of this research, combined with the current demographic shift in the workplace, should be a wake-up call (emphasis added) for any organization that is not focused on developing tomorrow’s leaders.

Is your top team still asleep when it come to your future bench strength?

© 2010 – 2016, Ian Cook. All rights reserved.

Ian Cook About Ian Cook

Ian Cook, presenter and consultant, works with managers who want to increase their effectiveness as a leader and build a stronger team. To book Ian for a training seminar, team facilitation or keynote presentation, call toll-free at: 1-888-FULCRUM (385-2786) or e-mail: ian@888fulcrum.com. For more articles and book reviews of interest to managers please go to: www.888fulcrum.com.