4 Keys to Developing a Leadership Pipeline

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Putting our heads in the sand—either in our personal lives or in our work places—doesn’t work. So why do we continue to look the other way as leaders in our organizations walk out the door?

What we should be doing, with the organizational goals and vision in mind, is looking for new leaders before our current ones depart. As Annette M. Cremo and Tom Bux explain in the October 2017 issue of TD at Work, “Developing a Leadership Pipeline,” what can be beneficial in many circumstances is to develop a pipeline of internal talent—employees who know your organization and whose peers know them.

Selecting future leaders is not necessarily about top performers or employees with the most drive. Cremo and Bux note that not all people possess all the characteristics or competencies the organization is looking for. “High-potential individuals,” they write, “have the skills for the job, the ability to interact with others, and the drive and determination for continual learning and growth.”

When you create a development program for these high-potential individuals, remember the following:

Value Experience Within the Organization

Participants who come to your development program, whether employees or mentors, bring a rich amount of organizational experience and knowledge. As a facilitator, value and use that knowledge: Ask for the input of participants, and use organizational examples in your course materials.


Create Challenging Experiences

As you train and develop your organization’s leaders of the future, remember to prepare them to meet the challenge. Provide stretch assignments and other work that can instill problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.


Giving employees exposure to other departments and programs will ingrain firsthand knowledge and help them understand the larger mission of the organization. If the need arises, these employees also will be able to step into different roles. Finally, employees who work in new departments bring a fresh perspective, which can foster creativity and new ways of thinking.

Create a Development Action Plan

A plan of action for high-potential employees should include specific, measurable goals. “These goals should be challenging, but possible,” write Cremo and Bux. “You want to push, not punish.”

Through collaboration with outside entities, such as universities and non-profits, L&D pros can include apprenticeships or micro-credentials in a development program. Mentoring programs are another beneficial course of action for development.

Pretending that our leaders will be here to provide their expertise and insights when we need them in the future won’t work: begin to groom future leaders now!

About the Author
Patty Gaul is a writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).
1 Comment
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Thanks for sharing these keys to developing your leadership pipeline. I agree that cross-training is one of the most vital components in preparing an employee for leadership. Learning firsthand knowledge from other departments will spark innovative and creative thinking for future leaders. Here are six more ways your organization can nurture its leadership pipeline --> (
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