When Planning for Leadership Succession, Focus on the Talent by Marcia Malzahn
When Planning for Leadership Succession, Focus on the Talent by Marcia Malzahn
During your strategic sessions, when planning for leadership succession, focus on the talent. Succession planning is on everyone’s top strategic objectives. And you must choose the right successors for each leadership position. The leadership team comprises of a variety of talent, skill, and experience. So how do you choose successors to the top-level leaders successfully?

Below are five talents to look for as you look for successors to the top positions of your organization:

The Talent of Leadership.

You can argue that leaders are born or made. I believe it’s both. The best leaders are those who are naturally good influencers of people which is the top talent to look for in your senior leadership team. Leaders take the initiative to lead. They are excellent decision makers with the information they have available at the time. They also own their decisions and consequences of those decisions.

Influential leaders don’t “tell” others what to do. They “coach” others to discover the answers for themselves. Top leaders must trust their employees that they know how to perform the job the company hired them to do.

Lastly, it is crucial to understand the difference between leadership and management. Leaders impart the vision to others. Managers execute the vision. Leadership is a talent. Management is a skill. The best leaders are also successful managers. Top leaders must be willing to develop their leadership talent and to enhance their management skills.

The Talent of Communication.

The talent of communication includes the ability to communicate well in every area and in a variety of ways. Good communicators are well spoken and can also communicate successfully in writing. They have the common sense to discern when an in-person conversation is better than an email or voice mail based on the circumstances. They choose words wisely to ensure others understand the message correctly and avoid misunderstandings or hurting other people’s feelings.

Excellent communicators listen well and repeat what others say to ensure they understood the message. Leaders who possess this talent mold their communication style to others’ styles to ensure a successful interaction. They take the initiative to understand the communication style of those they interact with and confront situations as they arise.

The Talent of Strategic.

Top leadership must be strategic about the future on how to direct the company’s endeavors. Collaborating with the other top leaders as a team, leaders make decisions that impact all stakeholders. People who possess the Strategic talent, according to the CliftonStrengths themes, create alternative ways to proceed after they explore at all the options.

Even when a company has a vision, without strategy at the top level of leadership, the company wanders around and does not accomplish its goals nor the vision. As a strategic team, they select members based on the knowledge gaps and needs of the team. It is crucial for the future success of the organization to choose the right successors for the top positions of the company.

The Talent of Includer.

Not one person can lead an organization without consulting and including the rest of the team—not even the CEO. Therefore, it is imperative for a Senior Leadership Team to look for leaders who include others in the decision-making process and that listen to others’ perspectives and points of view. Just as important, once a decision is made, whether everyone agreed or not, the team must support the decision.

According to the CliftonStrengths themes, those who possess the talent of includer simply “accept others.” Even though this talent is important, on one hand, the team must ensure the entire staff is represented at the leadership level. On the other hand, they must ensure that confidential information does not get out prematurely to the staff in an effort to “include everyone.” Doing so can present legal risks to the company if they share information that is not appropriate to be shared until the right time.

The Talent of Responsibility.

Top leaders must accept the huge responsibility it is to lead others. Some people only want the title but don’t want to take on the additional responsibilities that go with the title. Ensure your C-Level leaders embrace and own the responsibility given to them. They hold each other accountable.
 
Leaders with the talent of responsibility get things done. And precisely because they do what they say, they typically don’t understand others who don’t follow through. For them this is inconceivable. That’s when the communication gift comes in handy to understand others who don’t possess that talent and talk about it.

I will leave you with these related questions as you search for successors:
  • How deep is your talent pool? Could you find successors to the top leadership positions internally?
  • Are you focusing on depth of talent to include talent, skill, experience, and expertise to fill the open seats?
  • Are you looking for people who share your core values and the skills to match the business needs?

Succession planning is a great way to introduce new set of skills and expertise you may have been missing in the past. Therefore, when planning for leadership succession, focus on the talent. I hope searching for these five talents in your top leaders’ successors helps you form a successful team.

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