Article: Customizing the leadership pipeline


Customizing the leadership pipeline

It is important to align the leadership development initiatives with the organizational strategy
Customizing the leadership pipeline

A change of guard at the leadership level is followed by the recreation of strategy and organizational values. At such times, it is very crucial to be able to readily identify the successors


A strong leadership pipeline is essential to an organization’s success and sustainability. It helps the organization remain stable and grounded, while it expands and grows. Though its importance has been underscored several times, organizations are still grappling with the need for having a strong leadership pipeline. There is a need for such leaders not just at the top, but across all levels and all roles, including operational and management levels.

Many organizations face several challenges while setting up a leadership pipeline. These challenges include alignment to organizational strategy, communication gaps, overlapping roles and lack of collaboration. However, some companies have followed structured processes to help overcome these challenges, with competency frameworks being at their core.

Building competencies for future

The most common practices that organizations deploy in order to build leadership capabilities are focused around performance assessments, sharing feedback and helping people grow in their roles. The motive is to encourage employees to stretch their capabilities and move to higher levels, taking up bigger responsibilities. Some organizations rely on competency frameworks to build capabilities and assess performances. They use competency scores and observations as references for understanding one’s readiness for the future roles. Such competency models are being increasingly leveraged by relatively more mature organizations.

Some organizations follow a two-tier model for competency mapping, looking at functional competencies on one hand and behavioural or leadership competencies on the other. They look at mapping the job role to the competency frameworks. The competencies are categorised into various levels and are mapped to the job role requirements to work out which job role would require which all competencies and at what levels. Then, through training interventions and opportunity assessment feedbacks, employees are encouraged to consistently focus on their growth on the job, improving both their knowledge and the skill level as both go hand in hand. This also requires the organization to provide ample opportunities to a candidate to be able to practice the competency or skill that is being developed. In absence of such on-the-job opportunities, any initiative for developing a certain competency would be in vain which also implies that any leadership development effort has to be backed by relevant real-time projects.

Architecting a strong pipeline

Whenever there is a change of guard at the leadership level, it is followed by the recreation of strategy, changes in direction and organizational values. This consequently creates a misalignment and circumstances where people can even quit. At such times, it is very crucial for an organization’s sustainability to be able to readily identify the successors. There are various proactive ways to do so, one of them being the leadership incubator, which allows a candidate and the organization enough time and opportunity to develop the required skills and competencies. It is an initiative wherein a candidate is offered a project that is chosen to help build certain specific competencies on the job over a certain period of time. On the completion of the project, when the candidate feels confident and comfortable about the required or developed competencies, s/he is then referred back to the seniors with a feedback on the same.

This provides the leaders an insight into who has progressed in terms of their leadership skills and by how much. Such an initiative can span from six months to a year and should have a clear focus in terms of alignment to the strategy, living the values of the company and being able to deliver against the skills that are required. A strong service partnership is such that can customize an initiative to fit the organization’s requirements, strategies and values. It is all about building capabilities and enabling leadership in a way that lets the organization be what they want to be.

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Topics: Leadership, #BestPractices

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