An earlier post listed the 7 Principles of Leadership Development in no specific order of importance:

Exploring lessons learned and how an organization and I developed a leadership development process for high-potential employees

leadership development expert michael cardus

Selection of Leaders

Now that we have an idea of the needed skilled knowledge, Who should be involved in the leadership development process?

This is a tricky question. The company and I went back and forth. Below are some of the things we discovered and learned.

First, we had to identify how anyone can find themselves within a role that needs to exercise leadership1.

There are four possible routes – not mutually exclusive:

  1. Emergent – The person emerges in a group that lacks leadership. There is a level of complexity, a need, plus others in the group view and identify this person as a good leader.
  2. Appointment – A person is promoted or appointed into a leadership role. This may be made by a manager who chooses this individual, for example, a team leader or project manager, or a promotion to manage staff. The management role has leadership accountability inherent in the role.
  3. Elected – Political and board-based leadership is often elected.
  4. Hereditary – A son or daughter of a family-run business may be put into the role of leadership.

You will see and experience that each of these different ways someone may be placed into a leadership role carries different accountability and managerial structures, each needing different leadership development skilled-knowledge.

This is why choosing who and how they will come to have leadership accountability and whose work they will be accountable for is necessary for leadership development.

For the majority (and the company I was consulting and coaching), we focused on appointment and emergent routes because the company is a managerial-accountability-hierarchy.

We already had ~150 employees that were identified as having high potential. Their direct managers and their managers-manager chose this list of candidates. They were vetted through a question process, and each manager was asked the following questions about the employee:

  1. Do they contribute to enabling the team to complete its task while working to maintain harmony and collaboration among the working team? Share at least 3 examples, explicit and concrete. If they do not serve as ‘team-leader,’ how do you observe them providing team-building for the individual and support of the team leader?
  2. What is the longest (time-span) task you have delegated to this person? Share how they completed the task and how often you had to assist or correct their work on this task.
  3. About the role that this person will have, what professional knowledge / technical ability does this person have that will gain the respect of the team members?
  4. Does this person have the relevant experience to lead at the level you see them leading, following this process?
  5. Does this person have any extreme behavior that may get in the way of handling the increased stress, accountability, and authority that accompanies leading others?

As we better understood, we asked the same question face-to-face with the managers and continued to evolve our process.

With the responses, because we had an idea of the skilled knowledge needed and some idea of the future of the organization and its present needs, we could better match the current organizational needs with the future needs.  

Armed with the needed Skilled-Knowledge and a Selection Process that supplied us with ~150 potential managerial leaders, we focused on what was working and the next steps …


Reference: John Adair; How to Grow Leaders