Ushering in tomorrow's leaders

With chief executive officer turnover on the rise and the predicted departure of approximately 60 million Baby Boomers from the workforce over the next 15 years, many organisations are not prepared for the impending manpower shortages and resulting senior leadership gaps.

In 10 years' time, executives with global experience will fill top-level leadership positions. Bilingual skills and cross-cultural capabilities are key for upward movement. Executives must also demonstrate the ability to grow and turn a business around and prove themselves as effective leaders in periods of change.

The leaders of tomorrow will have to cultivate and thrive in a high-performance culture. The ability to generate major increases in revenue growth, employment and stock prices by leveraging the power of the organisation itself will set these leaders apart.

Leaders who act boldly, quickly and often enough are going to be prized above the cautious, rule-driven bureaucrats. They know how to look for good ideas everywhere and rapidly put them to use.

Companies know what they want in their future leaders but are struggling to identify who they are. To address these predicted vacuums, many organisations are employing coaches to minimise the effects of the predicted, mass Baby-Boomer exodus in the coming years. Projecting their business requirements into the future, these organisations see an urgent need to prepare the next generation of executives to step into senior leadership roles.

Succession planning

A recent survey found that 66 per cent of those polled have implemented executive coaching programmes in the last two to three years for the purpose of ''high potential grooming'' and ''performance enhancement''.

The study also found that the biggest challenge for companies in implementing executive coaching programmes is the lack of time to focus on anything but managing current business demands. A few cited shortage of time and budget as reasons for delaying leadership development strategies in their companies. This short-sightedness will ultimately hit business results as experience, knowledge and maturity gradually drain from an organisation's collective know-how.

Succession planning and development of senior leaders must be priorities for organisations, as large numbers of mature managers exit the workforce. Until recently, it seems companies have lacked the impetus to implement comprehensive executive coaching initiatives.

However, the steady improvement of the economy and a demographic shift in the workforce are now compelling corporations to fill leadership gaps with younger workers, who lack the right skills and behaviours necessary to take their companies to the next level. Without support and guidance, many of these up-and-coming executives will stumble, bringing about declining corporate results.

Succession planning helps organisations decide whom to groom into leaders, identify who has the highest potential and who will fill the organisation-critical roles.

Today's tight employment environment requires companies to retain and develop top talent. Replacing top talent is more expensive and time-consuming than replacing human capital further down the organisation.

Becoming a leader

Increasingly, the human resource department is called upon to provide solutions to succession planning and answer questions that involve whom they should spend their development dollars on, who are ready to take over the critical roles, and when will they be ready for the next promotions?

While a lot of companies are working on this, how can individuals ensure they are on the radar? In today's workplace, career advancement is essentially in your court.

Managing your career with success requires knowledge, discipline and developing career strategies that clearly describe the direction you wish to take. You also need a set of interconnected plans that align your values, skills, strengths and resources to achieve a goal.

Consider yourself as a business, not an employee; getting a fee-for-service, not a salary; and doing work, not having a job. And possessing personal control, not false security; employability, not employment; skill sets and competencies, not job descriptions and titles; and finally, a portfolio career, not one career.

You need to align the mission, culture, values and business strategy of your current organisation to your personal values, competencies, career orientation and priorities.

There's no doubt that the enthusiasm and high aspirations of the next generation of young managers will be an asset to organisations who can attract top talent. However, when Baby-Boomer mentors leave organisations, many of these younger workers will feel unprepared to take on the full weight of a senior management position. But with guidance from more mature and experienced minds, they can be transformed into the leaders that countries need to stay ahead in a competitive globalised world. - Source: ST/ANN

* Article by Dr Sattar Bawany, head of Transition Coaching Practice at DBM Asia Pacific.