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How to Build a Successful Leadership Pipeline in College

Monday, March 5, 2018

As cherished leaders exit organizations, there is the need for qualified people to take up the leadership mantle. In other words, there needs to be a smooth transition to the next generation of leaders. If individuals are unprepared for this challenge, then they are most likely to fail in their new positions. Replacing leaders can be done through hiring from outside or building a leadership pipeline from within an organization.

Most organizations (colleges included) recruit new talent from outside, and in turn, these recruits bring fresh ideas to the organizations. Even though this might be a good idea, people who have been in the organization for a long while might feel disgruntled. Sometimes there are inadequate people from outside to fill the vacant seats.

Therefore, the ideal solution to this may be to identify talent from the existing workforce and then nurture that talent. It's referred to as building a talent pipeline. The following are guidelines on how to build a successful leadership pipeline.

Recruit Fresh Talent
A successful leadership pipeline consists of both internal and external talent. You require a recruitment plan in place to have a constant stream of talent for you to develop. This means searching for new talent to occupy entry-level positions as the internal talent is moved into leadership positions. This simply means that you always have to keep recruiting fresh talent.

Have a plan in place to bring in recent graduates. Go to career fairs at various colleges, initiate internship programs and create a strong online presence to lure young talented individuals. A graduate recruitment program is the future of the organization. Therefore, you need to spend more time to think about the characteristics and skills that are the most crucial. Are you searching for an exceptional student, or are enthusiasm and attitude the most important things you are looking for?

Screen for Leadership Potential
One thing’s for sure; leadership is not for everyone. You have to determine the talent that should be put on the path to leadership.

What makes the overall manager highly talented? According to Gallup, Great managers have an uncommon combination of these 5 traits:

  1. They motivate their juniors (including students).
  2. They build a culture of accountability.
  3. They create trusting relationships.
  4. They assert themselves.
  5. They make informed decisions beneficial to the team and the institution.
However, 1 in 10 people has all 5 of these talents. The research also revealed that 2 in 10 people have some of these traits and can turn out to be successful leaders with the right mentoring and development.

You need to screen employees for these traits when building a leadership pipeline. If you think that someone has leadership potential, talk to their colleagues and immediate manager about their relationships at the institution. Establish how they behave under pressure and whether they are a team player. An ideal candidate for leadership will take into account other peoples’ needs, have strong relationships with their colleagues and also take responsibility for their work.

Prepare Them for Leadership
When those with potential have already been identified, you are not supposed to put them into leadership positions in the pipeline immediately. They have to be trained and developed. You might have already trained potential leaders, but is that training valuable? According to a survey by Workplace Trends, 39% of organizations provided leadership development programs, while only 15% of the trained felt that it prepared them well for their next roles.

Personalization training programs will ensure that the potential leaders are effective and engaging. A 2013 to 2014 Benchmarking study carried out by Towards Maturity indicates that 86% of the employees questioned learn what they are required to know from work via collaboration with their colleagues. Come up with a mentoring program whereby experienced managers offer advice to the potential leaders. Employees can inquire from them about anything, shadow them and also conduct one-on-one discussions.

Garner Organizational Support

Leadership programs are created and tailored to meet the expectations of an organization. When creating the program, the first thing to consider is getting the full support of the organization. Leaders have to respond to the following questions:  

  • Who will advocate for the program?
  • Will the program be a good investment?
  • Will we have leaders who are willing to mentor others? 
  • How will the program be of benefit to the organization when it comes to the sustainability of leadership and development of talent?
  • Do we support the program 100%?
  • How will we assess its success? 
  • What exactly should we include in the program?

Come Up with a Development Action Plan
Come up with a plan with specific and attainable goals tied to high-potential employees' new roles. Discussions on development can be incorporated into the yearly evaluation process as the high potentials progress in the organization.
Offer feedback at regular intervals. Re-examine the action plan at least quarterly, or monthly if it’s possible. One way of looking at potential leaders’ development requirements is to sit and map out the required skills for the different positions in your organization. Then identify the core competencies of a new person to the organization or a position and the progressive skills and know-how necessary to progress through leadership.

Create a list of the vitals kills or components of a particular role in addition to any competencies required for success. Furthermore, you need to identify knowledge that is required for those positions. When you match this information to each employee's competencies, skills and goals, you will end up understanding their areas of strength or weakness.

In organizations that know how to develop their leaders, compensation packages for the top performers are usually different from their peers. However, it should not only be about rewards. Talk to your top performers about who they are, thank them for their effort, expose them to the board or top management and make sure that they are challenged. Non-monetary forms of recognition are a sure way of retaining the top performers.

Make It Transparent
In most cases, succession planning systems have been shrouded in secrecy so as to avoid reducing the motivation of those who are not on the fast track. The main idea behind it is that if you don't know where you stand, you'll continue to strive to ascend the ladder. This school of thought, however, worked well in the past. From the top manager’s perspective, secrecy had its advantages (and it still does). It enables one make last-minute changes without worrying about angry reactions.
However, since most contracts are performance-based instead of seniority, people will work extra hard if they know the end game. A transparent management pipeline is not only about honesty. Employees are usually the ideal source of information about themselves and their expertise. If they have an idea about what they are required to do to progress further in their careers, they will take the necessary steps. Most organizations have given employees the responsibility of updating information in their personnel files.

Other organizations even reveal to their employees where exactly they lie in the succession pipeline. For organizations to achieve transparency, they need to have systems in place that are simple for everyone to use.

Keep It Flexible
Most succession management systems are fairly rigid. These systems can only be effective when they respond to the users’ needs and when the tools are simple to use and give reliable and up-to-date information. Organizations with successful leadership pipelines adjust their systems based on feedback from participants, monitor technological developments and borrow ideas from other leading organizations. Their systems are fluid.

It’s not easy to find natural leaders from outside. However, with a sound leadership pipeline within the organization, you are guaranteed production of talented leaders. Are there other strategies you use that haven’t been discussed here? Share them with us!

Freelance Writer: Lori Wade is the content writer at EssayWriterSite and a career specialist for college students. She is a content marketer, sharing experience on writing, education, and self-development in her publications. Connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.


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