Think about top companies that have made a mark in the last five decades—great products, a lasting brand, and dedicated employees. What companies come to mind? Perhaps you thought of Apple, GE, Microsoft, Boeing, Honda, and a handful of other big names. Now, think about recent examples of companies that have failed or are failing—Enron, Lehman Brothers, or the once mighty Kodak. What’s the difference between consistently successful companies and those that fail? To sustain success through good times and bad takes more than good products and marketing and finances—these are necessary but not sufficient. To pull these elements together and outperform the competition year after year requires great leadership. This is the one asset that makes all the difference: leaders with imagination, know-how, and highly effective management skills to encourage, inspire, and elicit high performance from a well-trained workforce.
If yours is like most companies at this point in time, you may be seeing rising demand and increased business. This is good news, and it means stepping up your game to meet the needs of returning customers. At the same time, you may be looking at a depleted management team, with your middle management ranks especially thin. Of those still left, few may have the training and experience needed as your business goes into higher gear.
How will you meet your need for effective leaders? Yes, there are experienced managers available on the outside, but if the Bureau of Labor Statistics is correct, there will be fewer and fewer such leaders over the next several years, there will be more competition for them, and they will be expensive to acquire. A better bet is to build your own bench from among your current employees and first-line managers. Develop your own future leaders, who are already trained in your culture and values, familiar with your markets and customers, and ready to step into new roles with the right training and preparation.