Retired Brigadier General Bernard Banks, now teaching at Kellogg, offers some interesting insights on developing future leaders. Banks explains that companies need to begin grooming future leaders when individuals are not yet managing others. He advocates providing individuals temporary opportunities to lead others as an initial developmental opportunity, before people are promoted to managerial positions. Banks explains:
According to Banks, a better path is to begin grooming future managers when they are still in nonmanagement roles, so that they can develop prior to moving up the ladder. For example, a company might place people on teams where they have no formal authority, but are nonetheless expected to work collaboratively with others. Or a company might temporarily provide leadership assignments. When a manager leaves for vacation or is occupied with another assignment for a finite period of time, a nonmanager—rather than a colleague already in a managerial role—might be asked to fill in. This early investment can feel like a risk at the time, admits Banks, but he has seen it pay off in future leaders. “When they make that transition, they have a reasonable expectation of succeeding in that new role.”
Banks also argues that individuals need to take ownership of their development plan. Companies should not simply be telling workers what they need to do next to develop as leaders. The process should involve a healthy dose of self-direction. Individuals need to identify opportunities for development, rather than always waiting to be told what to do.