Leadership Development and Succession Planning: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Leadership development and succession planning are often seen and treated as separate activities. Yet they really should go hand in hand, or even be thought of as two-sides of the same coin. You can’t have an effective succession plan if you’re not continually identifying and developing high performing, high potential people in your organization, and grooming them to assume greater responsibility.

And as the PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 15th Global CEO Survey 2012 found, developing a leadership and talent pipeline is the top concern of CEOs globally. Two-thirds of the CEOs interviewed said they wanted to devote more attention to developing talent pipelines.

Yet a staggering 77% of the CEOs interviewed for a recent AICPA CGMA report said they planned to cut spending on training and development over the next 18 months.

The AICPA survey found that the majority of companies don’t seem to be paying adequate attention to succession planning. 51% of the executives reported that their organizations don’t have a formal succession planning program in place for executive roles. It also found that most organizations rate their talent development tools and activities as infective.

Maybe that’s why they’re planning cuts to their development programs.

But perhaps the real problem is that organizations often take too small or too short a view when it comes to succession planning. Many organizations still limit their succession planning to simply identifying potential successors for its C-level roles. They just don’t think of succession planning as a leadership development exercise or a tool for engaging and retaining their top talent.

One of the problems with this view is that you can’t develop leaders overnight. Leadership development takes time. Organization’s really need to reach deep into their ranks, identify high-performing, high-potential employees early on, in the lowest levels of the organization, and groom them over time, through development activities and work assignments to expand their knowledge skills and abilities.

The infographic to the right, taken from a blog post on succession planning by Halogen Software, lays out some of the steps you need for truly effective succession planning. (Note: click the infographic to enlarge it).

You’ll notice that a big part of effective succession planning is development and creating talent pools – for leaders as well as for other critical roles. Only when you do this can you successfully recruit from within for leadership talent – and we all know why that’s important.

Guest author Sean Conrad is a senior product analyst and blogger at Halogen Software. He writes about leadership development, succession planning and management best-practices.

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