We often hear comments from aspiring leaders that when they ask for leadership development, those programmes are reserved for current leaders. Thinking about it though, would it not be much more efficient and productive to give aspiring leaders a head-start by preparing them for a role before they need to step into it?

Worst case scenario is that they decide against it. And knowing their preference in the first place will prevent putting them into a role they don’t want or can’t handle. That kind of mistake many times leads to a sudden drop in confidence of the individual, worse performance of the team even worse, losing a good team member. Not to mention the effects on the bottom line.

For most important changes in life, we try to prepare. When you decide to move to a new home, a lot of research goes into finding a location, comparing size and layout, looking at commuting options, seeing properties, to name but a few aspects. It’s this preparation that lays the foundation for success and a smooth operation. So why on earth don’t we do the same when we expect people to become leaders? Why not lay a foundation for success and a smooth transition?

As part of succession planning in organisations, there is usually a system for the identification of talent. Once that talent has been identified and ‘earmarked’ for future leadership, they are oftentimes left to their own devices to perform their way to the top and show what they can do. While there is some merit in ‘the strongest will survive’ methodology, it’s far more efficient to help people on their way. Set them up for success instead of throwing them in the deep end. 

Other common behaviours are management teams wanting to appoint leaders. They reserve the right to pick and choose who will step up into bigger roles, usually based on past performance but not always on potential. Why not flip the script and let people take part in leadership development programmes and let the talent bubble up to the top? That way you have committed, interested and eager leaders who are prepared for what’s coming. Almost a guarantee of return on investment.

For L&D purposes it’s quite straight forward to put together an ‘Aspiring Leaders programme’. Initiating an assessment of current skill gaps or needs within the business or business unit can start you off. Once you’ve collected the data from the current senior leaders as to where there are and will be gaps in the next 12-36 months, you can research the options for internal or external learning opportunities. With so many online providers competing, learning is 24/7 accessible at a very reasonable cost. Mentorship is another proven way to get aspiring talent off the ground and an even better way to keep current leaders engaged and involved.

If we want to enhance the future of work, it’s time to listen to the future leaders. Make opportunities for aspiring leaders to find out if it’s all that they thought it would be. Give your workforce an opportunity to make their own decisions and trust their intentions. Invest the money and the time, it’ll likely end up being the best decision you’ve made in a while.

If your aspiring leaders are knocking on your door and you need help figuring out how to facilitate their needs, get in touch. Azkua can help by group or individual coaching or excellent facilitation of proven leadership development programmes.  

Lynette Croxford. Guest author and Azkua Network Partner

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