Best of breed organizations know the importance of leadership development. Yet, most companies have severe difficulty in producing the type of leaders they need and making leadership development work successfully. Often the reason is a lack of a well-conceived, successive and logical meta-framework.We offer a solution, and 5 steps for leadership development.
In my opinion, a framework that does meet the ideal requirements is The Leadership Pipeline, first popularized by Charan, Drotter & Noel in the early 2000’s. Not only does it serve to help HR recruit and select the right leaders, but it also assists in managing leadership performance and, of course, optimally developing leaders.
What are the basic principles on which The Leadership Pipeline are built?
Essentially the principles of the pipeline framework are that:
- Different levels of leadership require different tasks, time horizons and values
- Leaders need to move through each successive passage
- The transition from one passage to the next is difficult for most leaders
- The challenge is to make sure that people in leadership positions are assigned to the level appropriate to them. If they’re not at the right level, they will clog up the system and reduce organizational effectiveness
- Leaders who have the potential for the next level of leadership need to be assisted from the one passage to the next.
What does The Leadership Pipeline look like?
For large, multinational companies the different levels start with ‘managing self’ witch, practically speaking, refers to all employees who are individual contributors and don’t have anyone else to manage. The next level of management would be when employees have leadership responsibilities towards others, as may be in the case of a supervisor or first-line manager role. This is followed by a level of leadership where a manager is responsible for leading other managers, as may be in the case of a Head of Department in one country. And so the scope of responsibility increases. It can be depicted as follows:
To practically explain how changes in skills, time horizon and values take place, see how the passage from ‘Manage Self’ to ‘Manage Others’, for example, is depicted:
Similarly, every passage will have its unique changes in skills, time horizon and values.
The Leadership Pipeline could be equally beneficial to smaller organizations.
The authors (Charan, Drotter & Noel) suggest that for a small to medium-sized enterprise the levels could merely be reduced to the following 4 levels:
- Leading self
- Leading others
- Functional leader
- Business leader
Whatever the size of your business, how can The Leadership Pipeline be applied for optimal value in your business? We suggest the following 5 steps to leadership development.
Five steps for making the Leadership Pipeline work in your organization
We propose the following practical steps:
1. Clearly differentiate and define the leadership levels relevant to your organization
The first step to making the Pipeline framework work for your organization, is to clarify the number of levels that will be meaningful to your organization. For example, by asking the question: ‘What is the equivalent of ‘Manage Others’ in our organization?’ ‘Is it the same as our 1st line manager/team leader/supervisor?’ While a manager of others may be a team leader in a large manufacturing company, it could be a (Junior) manager in a medium-sized services company.
This should be followed by the next questions: ‘What are the type of tasks, planning horizons and work values that will be required at each level to ensure a gradual increase in responsibility?’ and also ‘What are the levels of complexity that are required at each level?’
The next step could assist you in doing this.
2. Match job grades and role profiles to each leadership level
Once you have clarified the number and nature of leadership levels, the next step is to link each level of leadership to your job grading system and remuneration system. Should you use the Paterson system, for example, it is likely that your grade E-uppers could be regarded as ‘Functional Manager’ of a medium to large organization. In similar vein, ‘Managers of Self’ are likely to be grade A’s and B’s, C’s as ‘Manager of Others’ and D’s as ‘Managers of Managers’. Of course, not all C’s and D’s are managers, but may, instead, be specialists.
At this stage it is also important to standardize the type of generic responsibilities expected to be relevant to be relevant at each level and to incorporate this into your framework. For example, by asking the following question: ‘What are the generic tasks for ‘people management’ at ‘Managing Others’ level as opposed to when dealing with the ‘Functional Manager’ level?’ Other generic responsibilities may be financial management or risk management. Not only will this enable better integration across different HR models, but will also enhance a proper foundation for future job profiling exercises.
3. Identify the critical incidents or criteria for each ‘passage’
To ensure that the right calibre leader will move up in the pipeline, it is necessary to identify the critical incidents (tasks, time horizon/planning platform and values) which will indicate whether an incumbent is ready/not ready for transitioning into the next level.
4. Determine the means of determining suitability at each level
Now that you know what to look out for, how are you going to determine readiness? A successful Performance Management system will obviously be a solid indicator. However, it may be that a leader is excellent at one level but may not be ready or a suitable incumbent for the next level. We have all come across middle managers who are excellent at that level, but has failed to make the transition to a senior management role that requires a more hands-off, strategic approach.
Apart from looking at current performance, you have the option of using psychometric testing as a means of identifying potential for success at a more advanced level. Or both. If you wish to incorporate psychometric testing, what battery of tests will be suitable at each level? For example, shall we include a tool that measures the probability of dealing with complexity from leadership level 3 upwards, but not below? What instruments will provide us with the information we need at successive levels?
5. Identify and match appropriate means and modalities for the development of leaders at each level
An accredited course in leading-for-the-first-time may be well-suited to a 1st level manager/team leader/supervisor as a foundation. However, at what level would you consider using coaching as a means of development, or off-site assignments, problem-solving forums? In addition to looking at different modes of development, also ensure that you make a clear distinction between developing knowledge and developing behaviour. Development of both are required for successful leadership development!
Different levels of leadership require a different skill set, different time horizons and different emphasis. We proposed 5 steps for leadership development using The Leadership Pipeline to serve as a meta-framework for integrating job grading, job profiling, selection and performance management, inter alia, into a meaningful approach for the provision of the right type of leader at the right time.
Do you have clarity on what those levels are and what the unique requirements are for each? Are you in a position to determine if a competent leader at one level has the potential for the next?
You are welcome to contact us, for further discussion.
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