Great Business Ideas: The leadership pipeline

Great Small Business Ideas to Start: The leadership pipeline

Make clear to everyone in your organization the skills they need to possess and the results they need to achieve if they are going to progress to the next level. This will help them succeed in their career, and boost your business along the way.

The idea

Many organizations only pay lip service to career planning. Yet, at a time when there is a shortage of the right people and skills, it really does pay to “grow your own” talent. One example of this working well is RBS Insurance, which makes clear to all of its employees:

  • The skills that are needed at each level of management.
  • The skills that need to be developed before moving up to the next level.
  • The content of the role at each level and what it is that individuals do.

In their book The Leadership Pipeline, authors Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter and James Noel highlight six stages in the leadership journey: self-leadership, people, manager, unit ( individuals responsible for the delivery of part of a business), business (individuals accountable for the results of a business), and enterprise leadership (individuals responsible for more than one business).

As individuals progress through the “leadership pipeline” they encounter different “transition challenges”—for example, moving into their first people-management role, when moving from self to people leadership. There is also a focus on specialist roles such as legal, accountancy, marketing, and finance.

The advantage of managing leadership transitions is that it provides a framework for leadership development, highlights what success looks like at each stage, and describes how to improve skills—from new employees to top executives. It also ensures consistency across the business, and, above all, explains how to prepare for career advancement.
The leadership pipeline meets three business needs. It provides clarity about what is required, it makes the right development accessible for all, and it helps to focus development activities.

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Individuals benefit greatly from a clear, transparent career path.

In practice

  • Identify the different stages or levels of leadership within your business.
  • For each level, decide: a) what skills are required, b) what activities are involved and what leaders at that level actually do, c) how a leader needs to prepare for the next level—what skills and activities are missing that will be needed at the higher level?
  • Provide practical processes and tools, such as personal development planning, coaching, and development programs to help make the transition.