Where Have All The Leaders Gone?

Look inside your company today to find and develop the emerging leaders of tomorrow.

The No. 1 leadership challenge for CEOs today is developing “next-gen” leaders, according to DDI’s “Global Leadership Forecast 2018” (produced in partnership with The Conference Board and EY).

In the last two years, North American businesses have invested more in internal learning programs to halt the talent crisis and prepare the people they already have in house than anything else. And the No. 1 focus of their learning agendas is management and leadership skills.

In my own consulting work, I continue to bump into young, progressive individuals in the companies I serve, who are no longer just taking a management or leadership curriculum program. My interaction with these leaders often occurs after they’ve taken their learning development courses. That’s when the validation of their leadership skills is proven. Senior leaders will charge them to find out information on a particular strategic concern, then develop an action plan, and report back and make a presentation with their recommendations. These go-getters are on track to be the leaders of tomorrow.


Eligibility for inclusion in emerging leadership programs typically requires being identified as a high-potential performer or a person who desires to develop leadership skills in order to move up the ladder.

With the need for greater diversity on the leadership spectrum, more female manager candidates are being sought out. Diversity also is needed across generational and ethnic representation, as well as by specific skills. Emerging leaders also can include senior team leads or emerging executives with direct reports, who require better skills for greater leadership, abilities to enhance performance, and stronger influence within their companies.


How are you doing with training your emerging leaders? Hopefully, you’ll be better than the 35 percent of the companies that don’t even have a program to develop high-potential employees. The scary part is, of those companies that have a high-potential or emerging leaders learning program in place, only 55 percent actually measure the effectiveness of these programs.

As I have reviewed many emerging leadership programs, I am impressed with the degree of focus on people skills with an emphasis on empathy, communication skills, and emotional intelligence. At the same time, they also develop obvious leadership capabilities and digital competencies, such as learning to make data-driven decisions.

Leaders still need to learn how to inspire and motivate a diverse and inclusive workplace of employees. They must be skilled in managing downward, upward, and laterally to achieve desired results. Presenting their ideas effectively will always be essential. Likewise, the ability to network with others to influence collaboration and support needed for implementing new ideas and changes must be learned.

Classroom training is helpful for leadership candidates to learn principles and skills together with a group of like-minded peers. They get to see who their future leadership partners might be. Leaders and instructors can evaluate learners’ progress in applying leadership principles and meeting assigned commitments.

However, experiential learning is required to know the true strength of a potential leader. Having them implement and integrate their newly acquired skills into a real-world work situation helps confirm who the real leaders of tomorrow will be.

Self-directed learning programs—through online courses, book reading, and assignments—is another method. These learners face the added challenge of taking such courses on top of current daily workloads. This allows insight into a candidate’s self-discipline, perseverance, and aptitude in dealing with more pressure-filled work demands.


Here are some adapted recommendations from the “Global Leadership Forecast 2018”— consider them as you review your emerging leader learning programs:

  • Take stock of your leadership programs. Evaluate your current leadership development programs for all of your leaders. Are they really working? What’s the track record? Does the content being taught meet the strategic needs for tomorrow? How are the leadership skills in the curriculum being applied in your company?
  • Develop a leadership development strategy. Create a long-term leadership strategy that is aligned with your business strategy and goals. What specific leadership skill sets do you need to have developed internally for your company to succeed in the global marketplace? How will you become more innovative in order to be competitive?
  • Implement a leadership development plan. Plan how you are going to strengthen your current leaders. How will you help them identify high-potential candidates? Many of these leaders will need to learn how to effectively coach and mentor others. This is especially so if they have never benefited from these skills themselves.
  • Design an emerging leader accountability process. Hold senior leaders accountable for developing future leaders. Teach them how to coach and mentor these candidates to carry out strategic initiatives. Enlist emerging leaders to research and tackle current organizational problems and return with a workable solution. When approved, let these new leaders steer the implementation of the solution with a senior leader champion.

Through developing an effective emerging leaders program, you will be fostering the personal development of potential leaders. It is exciting to see the amazing leaders they will become. You also will set in motion the ongoing mentoring of future potential leaders you will need in the leadership pipeline.

Roy Saunderson is author of “GIVING the Real Recognition Way” and Chief Learning Officer at Rideau Recognition Solutions. His consulting and learning skills focus on helping companies “give real recognition the right way wherever they are.” For recognition insights, visit: http://AuthenticRecognition.com. For more information, e-mail him at RoySaunderson@Rideau.com or visit www.Rideau.com

Roy Saunderson, MA, CRP
Roy Saunderson, MA, CRP, is author of “Practicing Recognition” and Chief Learning Officer at Rideau Recognition Solutions. His consulting and learning skills focus on helping companies “give real recognition the right way wherever they are.” For recognition insights, visit: http://AuthenticRecognition.com. For more information, e-mail him at: RoySaunderson@Rideau.com or visit: www.Rideau.com