All fields required.


All fields required.
Brad Callahan
Vice President, Business Solutions Group

Leadership Begins With Smart Succession Planning

Given the multiple challenges facing businesses today—from price pressures to disruptive innovation—it’s no surprise that organizations have little time to focus on building their leadership pipeline. Although leadership development was cited as the number two priority by 89 percent of organizations surveyed in Deloitte’s 2016 “Global Human Capital Trends” report, less than half could fill their leadership needs and 21 percent had “…no leadership program at all.

So, where does your organization stand? If you’re not totally confident that you have a solid leadership pipeline in place, supported by a robust sucession process, then here are a few best practices that can help you to assess where you are and then move your organization to where you need to go.

Give succession planning the attention it deserves.

AON found that top companies spend up to 50 percent of their time on “leadership activities,” including succession planning. Broadly determined best practices include:

Align leadership development with long-term business strategy.

Leading organizations forge a strong link between talent development, including leadership grooming, and business strategy. This ensures not only that leaders critical to the strategy will be ready to take the reins in the future, but that current leadership needs are also addressed.

Re-assess current skillsets, desired skillsets and—most of all—employee’s passions.

Are you current with employee skillsets? Do you have a mechanism in place so that all employees can update their current skillsets? Are you confident that your managers, line leaders, and C-suite are aware of employees’ passions, especially those individuals considered to be potential leaders? At Target Corporation, leadership potential of employees is an ongoing conversation at the C-suite level.

Tip: It’s easy to overlook the introverts with potential in your organization, but worthwhile to find them. Harvard Business School finds that introverts, who tend to listen and process, can be excellent leaders.

Build your leadership pipeline before social media does it for you.

Here’s what I mean: your organization’s reputation is all over social media, from Glassdoor to LinkedIn to Facebook, and much of it is out of your control. By paying attention to your culture, and working with your communications team to manage your organization’s reputation proactively on social media, you are creating an offline and online presence that will engage and attract the kind of talent you want, including your future leadership.

Create a transparent program for developing talent.

You’ll need to work closely with your C-suite team to determine future leadership needs, skillsets to fill those needs, and a realistic timeline for leadership development. Goals, milestones and, when appropriate, personally meaningful acknowledgement and rewards should be part of the program.

Transparency is a crucial trust factor; it also keeps “politics” from playing a heavy part in succession planning.Mentorship is a part of transparency and especially critical to your leadership development program. The honest give and take of mentor/mentee relationship speeds the development of future leaders. It is also a highly valued, intangible reward for aspiring talent.

 In conclusion, most organizations want to build a pipeline for future leadership, but too often this is a reactive process. Consider the best practices I’ve outlined here. You might also take a look at organizations that you consider leaders in your industry and explore how they groom talent for the future. Remember, you’re grooming “leaders,” men and women who inspire your entire workforce to a higher calling, as opposed to managers who simply persuade people to getting work done. If you’d like to learn more about acknowledging and rewarding outstanding performance, contact a Marketing Innovators solutions expert.


AON Hewitt white paper: Best in Class Succession Management: Who Will Take the Baton? 2012.

Harvard Business School. Introverts: The Best Leaders for Proactive Employees.” October 4, 2010. “A Leadership Coach Says There’s One Type of Mentoring Relationship That Can Help You Rise Faster in Your Career,” Shana Lebowitz, March 21, 2016.