Leadership Pipeline Concept

What is a Leadership Pipeline?

Leadership Pipeline is a framework developed on structured observation through over 1200 in-depth executive assessments of very successful people -contenders for CEO, CFO, Group Executive and Business General Manager.

The concept is based first on principles developed over 30 years. The Leadership Pipeline offers first principles for mapping and building an efficient and agile leadership architecture, infrastructure and operation model. The Leadership Pipeline Concept will help organizations :

  • Grow leaders across the organisation
  • Create leadership agility
  • Improve execution power
  • Increase organisational efficiency

The details of the framework are largely elaborated in The Leadership Pipeline book. Today, a significant number of Fortune 500 companies have implemented the Leadership Pipeline concept as their key architecture for selecting, assessing, and developing leaders.

Brief Introduction to the Leadership Pipeline

Learn how organizations can develop leadership at every level by identifying future leaders, assessing their potential, planning their development, and measuring their results.

Benefits of Adopting the Leadership Pipeline Concept

  • Building own leadership talent factory and therefore a significant reduction of resources required to attract outside talent
  • Clear roles, responsibilities and accountabilities for all leadership levels
  • Significantly improves strategy execution on all levels also ensuring alignment of strategy with the rest of the organisation
  • Retention of the organisation’s best talent as they are engaged by the different opportunities becoming available to them and so do not need to seek these opportunities within competitors or alternate industries
  • Opportunity for personal growth through valuable on the job experiences for emerging talent. This benefits not only the individuals as they find out more about how they learn best so that this can be replicated, but the organisation benefits as these experiences are being tailored toward important aspects of its future success

Leadership Pipeline Key Principles

The Leadership Pipeline model distinguishes between the layers of leadership, allowing the firm or business to prevent leaders from operating at the incorrect level and failing to achieve all of the desired leadership outcomes. Unfortunately, few companies today are thinking about the core competencies and experiences necessary to succeed at each level. Often, companies promote people with the expectation that they have the skills to handle the job rather than the knowledge and skills to handle a particular leadership level.

“It is best when leaders are grown, not imported, and the
leadership function as a whole will never grow stronger and deeper if an organisation only invests in replacement as opposed to development”

(Charan, Drotter & Noel, 2001).

Leadership Pipeline Stages

It is essential to fully understand the work requirements at key leadership levels and what is necessary to make the transition from one layer to the next successfully.

This is accomplished by describing the essential transitions that leaders encounter while shifting from one leadership post to another in terms of work values, time application, and abilities. The Leadership Pipeline principles can also be used to set the required performance requirements for each leadership function in the company.

80-85% of positions in many companies would have the following leadership layers:

Passage 1: From Leader of Self to Leader of Others

Individual contributors can be considered “Leaders of Self.” In this stage, the focus is on developing the individual leader. This includes developing self-awareness, personal skills, and knowledge.

The first transition is known as “Leader of Others.” During the transition stage the focus is on leading and developing others. This includes developing coaching and mentoring skills, as well as the ability to create a vision and inspire others to achieve it.

Organisation front-line managers are those who lead others. They oversee between 80 and 90 percent of the organisation’s workforce. They become essential workers because of this. The greatest daily impact on engagement, motivation, attitude, job happiness, quality, and employee retention are made by those who lead others.

Leaders of Others will deliver value to the organisation through others performance, role clarity, development of direct reports, coaching and performance management. 

A successful Leader of Others is someone who enables the individual contributors to work their optimal potential not someone who could do their direct report’s work better themselves or has a history of doing it better. 

The most common challenges faced by individuals going through this transition include: 

  • Learning to delegate instead of micromanaging
  • Learning to have difficult discussions with direct reports 
  • Avoiding taking on the tasks of direct reports and enabling them to complete them on their own with minimal interference
  • Avoiding competing with direct report on technical expertise

Passage 2: From Leader of Others to Leader of Leaders

The second transition is called “Leader of Leaders.” In this stage, the focus is on leading and developing other leaders. This includes developing strategic thinking skills, as well as the ability to build teams and manage change. Leader of others are instrumental in identifying future leaders, coaching leaders of others and re-allocating resources among on teams. 

In organisations, the job of the leader of leaders receives the least attention. The misconception that there is little distinction between the roles of leader of leaders and leader of others is a contributing factor in the issue. Consequently, it should be easy for a seasoned leader of others to transition into the considerably more important job of leader of leaders.

This particular level of leadership will deliver productivity through the organisation by ensuring role clarity, sufficient training of direct and indirect reports, effective feedback and coaching delivery. 

The most common challenges faced by individuals going through this transition include: 

  • Learning not to hold direct reports responsible for technical proficiency
  • Learning to develop their direct reports into effective leaders 
  • Learning to follow up through front line managers as opposed to individual contributors 
  • Learning to build relationships across the organisation 

Passage 3: From Leader of Leaders to Functional Leader

The fourth stage is called “Functional Leader.” In this stage, the focus is on leading and developing a functional area within the organization. This includes developing expertise in a specific area, as well as the ability to manage resources and projects. 

In their capacity as functional leaders, individuals in this passage move from overseeing operational work in order to focus on focusing on functional strategic decisions that are aligned with long term business strategies. 

Business managers’ immediate reports, the functional leaders, frequently fall short in fulfilling their responsibilities, which is the one issue that frequently inhibits them from completely assuming their strategic tasks.

A successful functional leader is someone who delivers functional competitive environment over the business’ competitors by leveraging superior people management methods, resources, partnerships, processes and cross functional relationships. 

The most common challenges faced by individuals going through this transition include: 

  • Taking genuine interest in peer functions and as opposed to solely concentrating s on one’s own function.
  • Spending more time with functional leaders and the business leader.
  • Actively contributing to overall business strategy as opposed to solely focusing on functional strategy
  • Learning to talk into consideration functional areas that they don’t know so well.
  • Preparing for long-term results as opposed to invest all their energy on short-term results

Passage 4: From Functional Leader to Business Leader

The fifth stage is called “Business Leader.” In this stage, the focus is on leading and developing the business as a whole. This includes developing a deep understanding of the industry and the marketplace, as well as the ability to make decisions that will have a positive impact on the bottom line. In this role Leaders must learn to value each function equally and manage complexity among unfamiliar processes that need to be aligned in order for the longer term business strategy to be successful (which the business leader is ultimately accountable for). 

For most business organisations this is the final passage due to their size. Large organisations may feature two additional Leadership Transitions.

A business leaders primary objective is to ensure that the business is profitable and will remain profitable in the future will the functional leaders, capital and resources made available to them. 

Passage 5: From Business Leader to Group Leader

In this stage, the focus is on leading and developing a group of businesses. This includes developing a vision for the future of the organization, as well as the ability to inspire others to achieve it. Group leaders are play a key role in identifying which functional leaders are ready to become business leaders, developing portfolio strategies and strategies for capital allocations between business units. 

A group leaders job is to ensure that the current businesses in their portfolio are viable and that new business is being given sufficient investment. A group leader will be responsible for the implementation of a portfolio plan for their group of businesses which will include an investment plan and a succession plan for each business.  

Passage 6: From Group Leader to Enterprise Leader

The sixth and final stage is called “Enterprise Leader.” In this stage, the focus is on leading and developing the enterprise as a whole. This includes developing a global perspective, as well as the ability to influence change at a systemic level. Enterprise CEOs must embrace long term visionary thinking and delegate strategy to their direct reports. 

An enterprise leader focuses long term viability of the organisation and success of the entire enterprise. This often involves making decisions about future forecasts on the market, industrial events and major world events. 

Skill Requirements

Skill requirements, in the context of leadership development, can be defined as the new capabilities needed to execute new responsibilities at each level of the Leadership Pipeline. 

When talking about skill requirements in a general context we might think of something like excel, a programming language or preparation of financial statements. Most examples people may think of will typically be executed by individual contributors and the mastery and successful execution of those skills may lead to a promotion (in many cases to a people manager positions). 

There is definitely a lot of value in People Managers having some experience in executing their direct reports skills or at the very least having a good level of knowledge in the subject area. With that being said as leaders and future leaders move through the various leadership passages; the required skills that the individual will be required to have will change substantially to be an effective leader.

An Individual contribution will typically be expected to be proficient in their technical role, have knowledge how to follow process and procedures, and work in a team. A leader of others will have to learn to delegate those skills in order to focus on skills like job design, coaching, feedback, performance measurement and employee selection. 

As the leader progresses along the leadership pipeline skill requirements will change once again. For example, while a leader of others should a focus on job design a leader of leaders must become proficient in deploying resources among units and managing boundaries that impede the flow of work and information. 

Time applications

Time applications, in the context of leadership development refers to the new time frames that govern one works. As high potential transition to leadership roles or leaders move to new passages they will need to re allocate how they divide their time. Focusing their attention on what  made them successful in their previous role will limit their ability to be successful in their new position. For example an individual contributor will allocate their time meeting short term due dates for projects while a leader of others focusses their energy on setting priorities for their teams. 

Work Values

Work values, in the context of what people believe is important and so becomes the focus of their effort. The type of KPIs and definitions of success will also as the progress through the leadership pipeline.  For example, while a individual contributor focuses on getting results through personal achievement, a leader of others performance is judged by getting results through others. 

What about Non-People Managers?

The leadership pipeline is designed exclusively for people managers and how to increase their effectiveness. With that being said the creators of this concept have not forgotten about technical talent and the need for those professionals to grow and increase their impact. 

The specialist pipeline concept was designed to increase the impact of experienced specialist talent and enable them to choose an alternative career path to People Management. 

Are the principles of the leadership pipeline concept universal?

The Leadership pipeline principles translate across geographical boundaries and industrial boundaries.

Over time, leaders from more than70 different countries have been exposed to the Leadership Pipeline Institute programs and through the LPI impact measurement system, they can demonstrate the same impact in all countries. Of course, leaders need to behave differently in different cultures. But their core leadership value creation remains the same. And this is what the Leadership Pipeline principles are focused on.

On the same note, the Leadership Pipeline model has helped companies with 100-200 employees prepare for their next step
and anything up to large multinationals with hundreds of thousands of employees. Any industry is represented as a user of the concept. Again, the context of leadership is different across industries, but the core leadership value creation is the same.

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