Closing the Leadership Gap (Part 3): Empowering Future Leaders with Accountability & Support

by Bluewater Advisory

August 2, 2023

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, it is all about growing others.”
~ Jack Welch

As we now know, currently, 10,000 people turn 65 every day. At the same time more leadership transitions are taking place in our organizations, more change is being thrust upon our organizations than ever before. As just one example, we are just touching the surface of how AI and many other changes will impact our businesses. Actively cultivating our future leaders is crucial to our organizations’ success. In our last two blogs, we’ve discussed the first four steps required to close the leadership gap between our departing senior leaders and our junior leaders who need to become ready to step into their roles:

  1. Identify outgoing leaders
  2. Identify incoming leaders
  3. Discuss and assess where future leaders sit with their skills
  4. Create a plan & identify necessary outside resources

(To read our prior two blogs, please click here for #1 and here for #2)

One might hope that once you have accomplished these first four steps you should be well on your way to a successful transition and that your work is done. But there are two crucial steps left before you can begin to breathe a sigh of relief (as much as any leader ever can):

Step #5        Supporting the growth & development plan
Step #6        Accountability rails, combined with the ability to pivot

After creating a detailed plan for growing their leadership abilities and competencies, their internal company knowledge and their specific skills in their profession, we must create a plan to support their path for growth. Putting your newly minted leader in front of the woods with a compass and patting them on the back will not suffice. We must have a plan as to how we are going to support them on this journey as they navigate their way through the trees, trails, risks and opportunities they will inevitably face as they grow into the leader you want – and need – them to be.  We must have planned milestones, checkpoints, and water stations to ensure they not only make it to the other side, but that they decide to stay on this journey all together. In today’s environment, it’s not enough to simply give an individual a title and send them off hoping they will figure it out. There is too much at stake for our leaders to blindly grow into their new roles. Creating a plan for their growth is important, as is giving them the tools and support they need to succeed. If we want individuals to commit to the hard work it takes to be the leaders our organizations need them to be, we must commit to giving them the support they need to succeed. Otherwise, we may find ourselves with team members who begin the journey, but never complete it.

The last step in developing the leaders we need tomorrow, today, is to monitor their progress, hold them accountable and to pivot as necessary.  Actively supporting our leaders doesn’t mean we coddle them. It means we set them up to succeed and hold them accountable for the growth we need them to make and to which they committed (which is why gaining commitment from leaders is such a crucial step in the beginning of this process). It can take a full year or more to grow the skills and confidence leaders will need to step successfully into their future roles. Ensuring your new leaders are actively committed to the process of their own growth is imperative. The reality is our future leaders will face challenges, decisions, and opportunities we can’t even imagine. Their tenure as senior leaders will require more critical thinking, emotional intelligence and creative problem solving than ever before. These leaders must be prepared for not only the challenges we know, but to grow into the challenges that each and every industry will inevitably face in the very near future. This process also allows you to see the leader’s commitment and their likelihood to succeed in these roles.

And lastly, we must be able to pivot as necessary when we see things not working. Perhaps our plan isn’t working as well as we hoped it would. Perhaps we don’t have the internal support we expected. Perhaps the plan is moving too quickly or too slowly. Perhaps the leader isn’t as committed as we thought or has a personal problem outside of work putting your plan at risk.  While surprises might be painful, it is certainly better to find this out now and address the issues head on. Monitoring their progress, holding them accountable and pivoting as necessary ensures you maintain a pulse on their continued progress to becoming the leader your organization needs them to be.

Delegate authority, but not responsibility – remember that while you are ultimately accountable for these transitions to take place, you are not required to be the person who owns all the steps of this process. All too often, we encounter outgoing leaders who do not make the time or are unwilling to take on the task of transferring their years of knowledge, experience, and skill to the next generation. They are either burned out, cashed out, or have mentally quit while still showing up to work.

If you are fortunate enough to have leaders (or are the leader) who have the time, energy, and passion to grow the future leaders needed in your organization, I encourage you to utilize these three blogs to put together a development plan for the leaders in your organization (all six steps highlighted below). However, if you do not have the leaders who can commit to the growth of your leaders in the coming months and years this process inevitably takes, partnering with an organization who has a plan and can help with the heavy lifting of this process is a great a way to keep development on track without it becoming a full-time job for you. Bluewater’s Mind the Gap program is designed to be a comprehensive, hybrid approach to your individual team members’ leadership development. Utilizing live-virtual learning sessions, individual coaching sessions, driving internal mentorship, coupled with proven and vetted assessments and supported by Bluewater’s Learning Management System, this program is designed to grow your leader, not just any leader. We at Bluewater spend our days working with organizations just like yours, developing individuals and teams to create long-term success in organizations. We are ready to serve your organization’s needs for future leader development.

No matter the path you choose for closing the gap between the leaders you have and the leaders you need, we urge you to start on that path today. As senior leaders get closer to retirement every day, you must have a plan and create action around developing those who will need to move into their roles effectively and confidently for the long-term success of your organization. While we know that this can feel like a tomorrow problem, it is most assuredly a today one. Do something today to set you and your organization up for success.

A recap of all six steps for closing the leadership gap in your organization:

  1. Identify outgoing leaders
  2. Identify incoming leaders
  3. Discuss and assess where future leaders sit with their skills
  4. Create a plan/Find outside help
  5. Support their path and monitor their progress
  6. Monitor their progress, hold them accountable and pivot when necessary

Lindsey Weigle,
Managing Partner