Develop Next Generation Leaders - Bridging Different Perspectives

"The most important leadership activity," Bobby said, "is identifying and developing leaders." In my business and non-profit experience equipping a new generation is a high priority quest today.  Leadership development is not just concerned with specified succession and talent planning but understanding how to reach emerging markets or effectively reach a growing demographic diversity. The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) recently released a study that had two important insights about the next generation leaders now in need of development.

First - what is it that excites today's leaders about the emerging generation?  Several things stood out in the CCL report:

Their comfort/skill with technology and social networks for information/connectivity. (See: http://www.ccl.org/leadership/pdf/research/ExpandingLeadershipEquation.pdf).

  • Their creativity, openness to new ideas and the fresh perspective they bring.
  • Their multi-cultural/global awareness and tolerance of difference.
  • Their adaptability, learning-orientation and acceptance of rapid change.
  • Their confidence and willingness to take a stand or challenge the status quo.
  • Their enthusiasm, dedication and work ethic.
  • Their collaborative and team-orientation - their willingness to work across boundaries
  • Their strong sense of ethics, service-oriented leadership and desire to make a difference.

The potential inherent in new technologies for doing great and good things is inspiring - even with the dark side of technology.  Every new generation has to wrestle with the dark side of change.  The fact is that they way we do business today, the way customers find us, the way customers buy are all radically different than even ten years ago. The changes are both breath taking and astonishing.

Yet I remember one of my mentors telling me, "Ray, I am not impressed with talent.  I see a lot of talent.  I am impressed with character that shapes talent into consistent outcomes, commitment and endurance." The same idea is said about today' s emerging leaders and it is a message that should be heard. In my experience the weakest of these traits (when I find weakness) rests on the confidence and assertiveness of emerging leaders.  Some emerging leaders need help identifying their own uniqueness and how to relate - a need discussed in one of my earlier blogs see http://wp.me/pYuoc-9K.

The survey results also identified what many leaders are concerned about in the development of emerging leaders namely:

  • Their unjustified/unrealistic sense of entitlement, need for instant gratification and affirmation
  • Their lack of ability to communicate effectively face-to-face and their over-dependence on technology
  • Their lack of a strong work ethic, focus/commitment/drive,  that they don't always seem self-motivated
  • Their lack of learning opportunities (mentoring, positive role models, training adequate to future challenges they will face)
  • Their lack of a strong sense of values, ethics, or social responsibility
  • Their lack of reflection/self-awareness/maturity
  • Their overconfidence and resistance to input or feedback

Clearly the perceptions don't apply to every emerging leader.  However, in both my non-profit work and work in business I see these two sets of traits constantly.  So what?  CCL's survey results set the stage for some great conversations.  How is your organization leveraging the development of its emerging leaders?  Mentors need to know how to lead emerging leaders into owning their development and becoming truly differentiated people. Emerging leaders don't have to wait to be mentored...find mentors!  In one of my relationships with an emerging leader the sense of entitlement demonstrated itself in this person's assumption that by simply showing up with a college degree they would be made a manager.  Their disappointment when they were overlooked for a promotion was palpable. However, they were overlooked for their failure to take advantage of mentoring and other informal learning opportunities.

How are you addressing the dynamics described in the lists above in your organization or company?