Closing the Leadership Gap (Part 2): Identifying and Supporting Rising Leaders

by Bluewater Advisory

July 5, 2023

“A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession”

– John C. Maxwell

Our last blog focused on the importance of preparing your organization for the inevitable senior leadership transition that is taking place across the country in every industry and every organization. While we know it’s important to begin the hard work of creating a strategic and effective leadership transition, it’s often difficult to prioritize what can feel like a tomorrow problem, even though we know it’s a today problem.  (If you have not read the first part of this blog series, we suggest you catch up with steps one and two HERE.

Once leaders have been identified, the next important step is to discuss with them their interest in growing their leadership path. Getting buy-in is crucial, as this process isn’t simply about the next promotion. Leadership transition is about ensuring your team members are willing to do the work it takes to be a top leader in your organization, that they will put in the work to grow themselves, be willing to uncover blind spots, continue developing their emotional intelligence, communication, and delegation skills, growing their technical skills and knowledge and focusing on futuristic and big picture thinking. This process is not to be taken lightly. It requires self-awareness, self-discipline, and resilience to become the leader organizations need at the top.

Once your team members have bought in (while remembering that this still does not guarantee that they will decide to continue this process, nor that they will turn out to be the right individual, as referenced in part one of this blog) assessing where their leadership competencies are strong and where they will need to be strategically grown is next. This requires an understanding of what skills and competencies make for a successful leader in your organization currently, but also, and perhaps more importantly, what will make for strong leaders in your organization in the future. We all know that the skills and competencies that got you here won’t necessarily get you to where you want to go. We are just touching the surface of how artificial intelligence will reshape every industry that we work in. Having leaders who understand not only the skills required to succeed in today’s climate but in the exponentially changing environment of the coming years is critical for all organizations. Leaders who are futuristic thinkers, who are adaptable to change, who have incredibly high levels of emotional intelligence, who are good critical thinkers, and those willing to inspire those around them will be table stakes in the coming years. Establishing clear criteria for future leaders in the company and assessing where each team member stands against that criteria is required to move to the next step: creating a plan for their development (which also, as discussed in part one of this blog), needs to start today.

This strategic, thoughtful, and specific development plan is essential for both you and your rising leaders. It ensures they have a clear path of where they are headed and that they feel excited about their path, not weighed down by additional tasks on their to-do list. It ensures the ability to track how your team members are growing (or struggling) and to be able to course correct on the path as necessary. With, very likely, multiple team members going through this development process at once, it also gives you a big picture view of where your organization sits as senior leaders begin to exit and new leaders step into their shoes.  Lastly, it gives you a sense of confidence that your organization is headed in the right direction, that the likelihood for smooth transitions between leaders will be seamless, and that the wonderful work your organization is doing now will continue tomorrow and in the future.

It may be that you have the bandwidth within your organization to assess, create (a plan) and develop your team members; however, it is important to remember that if your organization is currently stretched thin and more focused on areas of your specific expertise, partnering with organizations, like Bluewater, who spend their days focused on these areas can ensure that this important area of your business gets the attention, expertise, and accountability it needs to thrive.

Four steps down, two more to go. Stay tuned for our last blog in this series to complete your leadership succession plan!

Lindsey Weigle,
Managing Partner