Even though the recent recession postponed retirement for many Baby Boomers, it didn’t eliminate it; and now many of them are exiting the workforce stage left.
Because of this reality, many innovative organizations in both the private and public sectors are developing creative ways to develop effective leaders. Here’s a quick look at three unique approaches that could help prepare your team for the future:
Toyota has modeled this with great success. They created a diverse team of young (and I mean young!) leaders and provided some advanced leadership training. However, they also reached out to other organizations in their community and “loaned” this team of leaders to these organizations, many of which were non-profit groups. The purpose was to have the emerging leaders help these organizations solve problems they were facing. It was a win-win in more than one way. The organizations benefitted from receiving input from a different set of eyes. Toyota not only had a public relations win, but their leaders received some hands-on experience. It provided both learning and evaluation opportunities. This is something that many local governments could explore.
- Cross-Departmental Training
In The Southwest Airlines Way, author Jody Gittell describes the practices of Southwest Airlines in developing employees. Due in part to their aggressive cross-departmental training programs, employees are likely to know how their work relates to the work of the entire organization. They know how their work impacts other departments. Gittell argues that this is not typically true for other airlines. This may not seem like a quick fix for developing future leaders, and it’s not, but it may be an important foundational issue. John Kotter, distinguished business professor at Harvard, suggests that creating ways for employees to reach outside the boundaries of their own silos will facilitate innovation because it spreads operational knowledge and builds relationships. No leader is prepared for the future without those two things, no matter how many classes he/she has attended.
- Executive Assistants
This idea, sometimes used in the military, involves taking a young leader and re-assigning him/her for a period as an executive assistant to a department head. The key word is to have them serve as an “executive” assistant not an “administrative” assistant. This is not the next step to being the “assistant department head.” It is one step in the process of developing a future leader who will be much better equipped because of the opportunity to see things from a higher level for a period of time. It may seem like a luxury that you can’t afford to have, but if you are serious about developing leaders, it may be a necessity that you can’t afford to be without.