more-arw search

Leadership Development Needs to Be a Focus at Businesses

To develop strong leaders for the future, start coaching younger employees ear

With the recent news of Pope Benedict XVI stepping down at the ripe old age of 85, it may be the right time for business leaders to think about who will be heading their company five to 10 years down the road. Not everyone can be a CEO, taking responsibility for the successes and failures of an entire company. It takes years of grooming and experience to truly understand how to lead a business. Developing that skill set is something both firms and executives must work on. Future company leaders aren't going to simply show up at the board meeting one day.

Businesses Should Prepare Younger Leaders
According to recent research conducted by leadership development firm Zenger Folkman at a Silicon Valley software firm, it may be wise to begin preparing higher ranking members of a firm to be leaders at a younger age. The amount of time, energy and effort it takes to groom a future leader demonstrates that it may be time to begin the leadership training process with junior employees.

The research revealed the average age of employees participating in leadership development training was 42, while only 10 percent were younger than 30 and less than 5 percent were under the age of 27, beginning the question, "Why are firms waiting so long to develop their leader for the future?" 

"Think of the advantage to be gained by this person beginning some formal leadership development activity at an earlier age, rather than waiting for nearly a decade to begin," said Jack Zenger, CEO of Zenger Folkman. "Prior research has shown that less than 10 percent of leaders, left to their own devices, will have any personal plan of development without the encouragement of some formalized process sponsored by their company."

Companies that decide some type of leadership training is the right move for the business, could benefit from several advantages that stem from getting business executives ready to lead the firm at a younger age. A few leadership characteristics that can provide companies with a competitive edge include increasing cognitive function at a younger age and improving skills in the workplace at while potential executives are still in their late 20s and early 30s.

"Today we are devoting roughly three-fourths of our development effort to Gen X and 20 percent on Gen Y," Zenger said. "We concur with our colleague from the Silicon Valley software firm - we would be wise to invest more in the development of the Gen Y group."

The Best Leaders Know When Their Time Has Come
Much like Pope Benedict XVI during his recent resignation, other leaders are aware when they need to give up the reins and hand them over to someone who is more apt to lead. When CEOs know their time has come, there are a few factors that they should look out for, which are chronicled by a recent article in Inc. magazine.

  • Has technology passed them by? Many CEOs that rose to prominence during the 20th century are simply finding that innovation in technology are too much for them to handle, and their company could be better off with a younger leader at the helm.
  • Is their network stagnant? A generational shift has occurred at many firms, and older business leaders simply are unable to connect with CEOs that are part of Generation Y.
  • Can someone do a better job? Some CEOs are stuck in their ways and don't like to change the way their firms do business. Strong business leaders are aware when this occurs and want to step down to see a changing of the guard at the company.

Senior executives should not limit the pool of potential future leaders to older employees. Push to create a succession plan within your company that  includes training and development for younger employees who could be leaders in the years to come.