The Six Reasons Leaders Fail to Develop Next Gen Talent

Over the course of the last seven articles, I’ve explored the context and the six reasons leaders fail in effectively developing the next generation of leaders. Here I summarise the series and provide links to previous articles.

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1. Leaders already think they do it well

The first reason leaders are failing to effectively support the development of next gen leaders is that many senior leaders not only think they know how to develop future talent but believe they do it well. In one study while 64% of leaders believed themselves to be ‘highly effective’ or ‘very highly effective’ at identifying and developing future talent. Few HR professionals surveyed agreed with their assessment.

2. Skills is assumed

In addition to many leaders’ thinking, they are already better at developing future leaders than they are, proficiency is assumed. Historically we assumed that leaders should just pick up ‘soft skills’ through trial and error. Similarly, with coaching skills. While organisations now realise these skills need to be taught, this is not yet the case for the suite of skills required to develop future leaders: mentoring and sponsorship.

3. Like with like is not enough to develop next gen talent

Like it or not in most of our organisations the majority of senior leaders are men of a certain age and background. While we can argue the toss about the forces that created this situation, the reality is, that it is what it is (and personally I don’t think making men in these positions feel wrong or guilty for being there serves any useful purpose). Given the imperative for more diverse organisations and leadership, it’s also not going to continue.

4. Despite positive intent, leaders don’t have time

The most limited and precious resources for senior leaders are their time and focus. Given the sheer volume of data and decisions requiring their attention, even the most people-focused leaders are hard-pushed to make time for development conversations with their direct reports let alone emerging leaders, not in their immediate line of sight.

5. Mentoring and Sponsorship are seen as mutually exclusive

Historically an arbitrary distinction has been made between mentoring and sponsorship, rather than seeing them both as part of a suite of tools leaders can use to develop the next gen leaders. Equally, any leader committed to developing the next gen leaders will not wish to restrict themselves to one or other approach but know when to employ each approach at the right time.

6. Without a proactive approach, those who need it most don’t get the support they need

Those from diverse backgrounds often need particular types of navigational support to advance their careers but are less likely to get what they need. For example, next gen women are often over-mentored and under-sponsored relative to their male peers. But more mentoring, while it supports career satisfaction, on its own does not lead to career advancement.

If you’d like to know more get in touch about my Way-Paving Programme which is deliberately designed to address all six barriers.


#diversityandinclusion #mentoring #waypaving


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