A friend once lamented to me, “Too often, after senior executives climb the ladder to the top, they pull the ladder up behind them.” I suppose it is human nature to protect what they’ve got. To hold on tight. But, that’s the opposite of what the organization needs. That’s selfish and reckless. The organization needs the right leaders at the helm at the right time. The future is at stake and with no capable leaders in the queue, there is no future.
I have always believed that leaders are obliged to develop the next generation of leaders. The fact is that it is their job to safeguard the long-term health of the organization by ensuring it is stocked with future generations of leaders.
Many skeptical colleagues say that I am wasting my time and energy. They say that if we develop them, they will leave and go to a competitor. Here’s what I tell them: If you invest in their potential, they may leave to find other opportunities. But if you don’t invest in them, they certainly will leave.
As a senior leader, I must actively and personally commit time, energy and focus to this responsibility. It is vital to have a process and the tools; assessment, succession and so on. But tools don’t develop people; people develop people.
As Walter Lippman once said, “The final task of a leader is to leave behind other people with the conviction and the will to carry on”.