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6 Steps for Developing Future Leaders

BlogCLA.MentorMW By Kirk Kramer and Preeta Nayak

Developing future leaders is a long-term undertaking demanding ongoing attention. And often the biggest challenge can be knowing where and how to start.

We have developed a few suggestions for nonprofit leaders just beginning their leadership development journey.

1. Begin at the Beginning

Complete our “Leadership Development Diagnostic Survey.”  It will help you determine what leadership development activities you have in place and how to think about stepping up to the next level.

2. Engage Your Senior Leaders

If you are the CEO, ask the members of your senior team to add a personal- and organizational-development objective to their annual goals. Hold team members accountable for progress against their objectives. Let them know that you have set similar goals for yourself as well and that the board will review your progress.

3. Understand Your Future Need

Gather your senior team for a once a year offsite to discuss where the organization is going and the potential of their direct reports to move into more senior roles. In discussion with your team, develop a common view of the key positions you’ll likely need to fill and the skills and capabilities those positions will require. Then create a Plan A for your senior team. Update it annually and share it with the board.

4. Develop Your Future Leaders

Meet twice a year with each of your direct reports to discuss their progress against their leadership development goals. Again, don’t create something new. Your organizational calendar probably already calls for periodic review meetings — capitalize on them by adding development goals to the agenda. In these conversations, work with each of your direct reports to identify the competencies they need to develop. Reach an agreement on the activities that are most likely to build those competencies, keeping the 70-20-10 framework in mind. Allocate assignments so that staffers are doing work that builds specific leadership capabilities and at the same time accomplishes the organization’s objectives.

5. Hire Externally to Fill Gaps

Identify the areas where you will likely need to hire externally to meet future needs. External hiring is often more necessary at small and medium-sized organizations where a wide management-skills gap separates, say, the finance director and the bookkeeper who reports to her. In such cases, you’ll likely have to hire externally to replace the finance director — or, if the organization is growing rapidly, create a new chief financial officer role.

6. Monitor and Measure Your Progress

First, set targets for accomplishing the work of the previous items on this list. Next, you should report on your organization’s progress against those targets to your senior team and the board. And finally, during annual goal-setting discussions with the senior team and the board, determine leadership development priorities for the coming year.

Skilled talent developers enjoy the respect and admiration of the organization, which gains a reputation as a place where people with high potential and aspirations can make the most of their abilities. When that happens, congratulations are in order — you have built a leadership culture that can sustain the organization, whatever the future might bring.

What are you doing to develop future leaders in your organization?


Kirk Kramer is a partner with The Bridgespan Group and head of the organization’s leadership initiatives. Preeta Nayak, a manager in Bridgespan’s San Francisco Office, manages the leadership initiatives. Excerpt Outcomes Magazine Winter 2012





What is Christian Leadership Alliance?

Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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