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The First Step to Filling Your Leadership Pipeline

It's a story as old as leadership itself.


The sage, experienced chief has led his tribe well. He is beloved by his people. But now age has brought him to the place all humans must eventually go.


Through the sadness, the question on everyone's mind is, "Who will lead us next?"


Whether you're a business owner, a C-suite executive, or a department manager, part of your role is to ensure your followers never need to wonder if the next leader will be effective.


Most organizations take the ostrich approach to the leadership pipeline. They simply bury their heads in the sand and ignore the issue until they lose a leader. Then they scramble to fill the role with the best available person. This not only costs the organization money, it causes undue confusion, stress, and turmoil.


What if you had an intentional process for preparing leaders for the next step in their leadership journey before they were promoted?

Fill your leadership pipeline with those who aim higher.

What if you had a bench full of capable, experienced people to choose from when that sage, experienced chief moves on?


You can have that. And you don't need to start by implementing a large program that takes time away from your everyday work. You can start by taking three simple steps. We'll examine the first step here and the next two in subsequent articles.


Here's where to start: Identify one person with leadership potential. Eventually you'll want a bunch of potential leaders in your pipeline, but for now let's start with one.


How do you know if someone has potential? They instinctively think one level higher than their role.


Here's what I mean: Janice is a first-time manager. She leads a small team to create social media posts that connect with prospective customers. Photographs, video, copy, and design mesh together seamlessly to draw people in to the company brand.


Janice does a good job of overseeing the creative work, keeping the team on brand, and ensuring they meet their deadlines. But what sets Janice apart is her mindset. She always has the bigger picture in mind. How will this post fit with our current marketing campaign? Could we utilize a clip from the recent TV ad to tie the two together? How can we be foreshadowing the new product line that will launch in six months? What if we coordinated our social media with the upcoming email blasts?


How do you know if someone has potential? They instinctively think one level higher than their role.

These aren't the questions of a typical first-time manager. They're the questions of a woman who understands that her team does their work within a larger context. And she knows that the better she understands that context, the more effective her team will be.


Take a few minutes to look around you. Who are the Janices in your vicinity? Who is asking the questions about the bigger picture?


Sometimes we miss a chance to develop a leader because they seem annoying. They are always asking about other teams and higher-level decisions. They have ideas that go beyond their level of leadership. Instead of insisting they stay in their lane and just do their job, try drawing them out. Maybe they are just inappropriately ambitious. But maybe they are the next leader you'll need.



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