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How to Develop Future Leaders

FutureLeaders-300x200Out of curiosity, I recently Googled “leader.” The results varied considerably — from “the person who leads or commands a group, organization or country” to a bicycle shop in San Diego to the name of the daily newspaper in Eau Claire, Wis.

But my favorite definition was this one: “The main growing shoot of a sapling, it eventually will become the trunk of the tree.”

That one made the most sense to me, because I believe leaders aren’t born; they are developed. Every employee in your organization has the opportunity to be a leader, and once they understand that concept, the development process begins.

Succession planning is a hot topic today, because massive numbers of baby boomers will be retiring in the coming years. This means that organizations can anticipate a potential leadership talent drain of 30 percent or more by 2020. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than one-fourth of all employees between ages 25 and 34 have been at the same company for less than one year. Younger workers today will change jobs an average of 10 times before they turn 40.

Like human capital, talent management is gaining increased attention. I often hear human resource directors say, “Don’t fill jobs; manage talent.” “Talent management” is a term used to describe the process of attracting, developing and retaining employees to meet the current and future needs of an organization.

Have you invested in the future leaders of your organization?

Leigh Branham, author of The Seven Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, offers several reasons why more people don’t use leadership coaching as a development tool. Here are a few of them:

  • Fear of hurting the employee’s feelings
  • Dislike of confrontation and conflict
  • Fear of losing control of their own feelings
  • Haven’t observed employee’s performance
  • Never received much feedback themselves
  • Think employees need too much feedback
  • Have never been trained, so don’t know how
  • Culture doesn’t reward it

Are you taking the time to develop potential leaders among the individuals you supervise? Do you share decision-making with the people who report to you, so they can gain experience making confident decisions? What steps are you taking to foster and promote employee engagement? Or are some of the reasons listed above holding you back?

Engaged employees can be our future leaders. They bring their best to work every day and are willing to take on extra responsibilities to make their organizations successful.

Talent Management magazine once compared “satisfied employees” to “engaged employees.” Here are the results:

Satisfied Employees Engaged Employees
Do a good job. Are willing to go above and beyond.
Are predictable performers. Always bring their best to work.
Regularly meet job expectations. Strive to perform better.
Implement solutions to problems. Take ownership of problem resolution.
Focus on job-specific tasks. Volunteer to accomplish organizational goals.
Are comfortable, for now. Desire a long-term relationship.


Your efforts in succession planning will foster allegiance and spark renewed enthusiasm within the ranks of your organization.

(Photo by João Pacheco via Moveast)

About Ruby Newell-Legner

As a Fan Experience Expert, Ruby helps leaders in sports, leisure and entertainment build strong teams between front line staff and management, and make exceptional customer service a way of life. She has consulted with and designed customized training programs for more than 60 sports and entertainment venues, 80 leisure facilities and 29 professional sports teams. From the only 7 Star Hotel in the world to Convention Centers, from Denver to Dubai, Ruby brings unprecedented expertise and insight on how to create a service culture that motivates employees and promotes customer loyalty and retention.

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