1. Develop a long-term strategy to cultivate dynamic leaders
Subject matter experts don't always make great managers. But dynamic leaders identify how their current employees are most impactful, so they can plan and strategically fill gaps in their leadership roles. An organizational focus on intentional leadership development helps to fill gaps before they even happen, says Katie Little, American National director, Property and Casualty, training and development. “Our Leadership Development program is a six-month program, where managers nominate team members we then invest in as an organization,” says Little. “Our program is leader-led. Individuals with the title of manager all the way to Senior Vice President are investing in team members. Together, they identify future managers’ strengths, form relationships and gain capacity to take their next step in their career.”
2. Identify Problem Solvers Who Love People
Great leaders have a winning combination of exceptional problem solving and people skills. Team members who have both should be celebrated and challenged -- if they keep succeeding, they should start leading. Jared Alexander was Harmony House's philanthropy director, launching successful campaigns and helping to make the nonprofit a pacesetter in the state. His success led to being named Executive Director in 2023, and that only came from support of his professional growth from Harmony House leadership and the Board, he says. "I attended every meeting for the board of directors and had regular communication with several of our operating committees and officers as we created and carried out fundraising campaigns or donor cultivation activities. Those relationships were so helpful in how I learned to use the resources available and make meaningful connections to further our mission."
3. Play the Long Game
Leadership roles often don’t just appear, they have a long runway. Managers retire, team members move on and give months’ notice. But intentional succession planning can help minimize disruptions, retain top talent and support a positive culture, says Kristi Stringer, President of The Great Game of Business. “Not only does succession planning benefit your business, it also benefits individual associates. People who see a path to greater responsibility and leadership opportunities are more likely to stay and take advantage of programs that help them grow their leadership skills.”
4. Take A Risk and Invest In Someone Driving Change Today
The best way to skill up a player is to keep them off the bench and engaged. Dynamic professional development, alongside incrementally increased responsibilities, is a winning combination to skill up employees to managers.
Just don’t wait. The best time to invest in the leadership skills of the next generation of managers within your organization is right now, says Little. “The knowledge we have as leaders, it’s not a secret society, we should be sharing it with the next generation. I don’t want a clone of me, I want the person who has my job next to be even better and asking better questions. I need to be investing in my team so my replacement can thrive. That’s leadership that builds a legacy.”