Focusing on developing leaders at every level of the organization, including ourselves, will be the strategic differentiator for attracting and retaining talent. No one ever arrives as it relates to leadership—it is a lifelong journey.

Business leaders who understand this new reality will ultimately attract and retain the best talent. The process for attracting and retaining top talent starts by looking in the mirror. To quote Mahatma Gandhi, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” It is important for leaders to understand the new realities of followership. In order to develop leaders at every level of the organization, it will be critical for current leadership to accept the challenge of continual leadership improvement. This is a classic case of “walking the walk.”

Practice Energy Management

Every world-class leader practices energy management. Everyone understands time management. There are only so many hours in a day to get things done. The best leaders also understand energy management, and realize that energy, like time, is a finite resource. Decisions on how to spend one’s energy are not to be taken lightly.

The best of the best invest their energy in areas that can improve performance and waste little or no energy on situations beyond their control. It is an absolute waste of time to lament the changing needs of followership and try to wish them away. One’s energy needs to be spent on understanding the needs of the workforce and not wasted on events beyond one’s control.

World-class leaders do not waste their energy on being defensive regarding changing demographics, changing market situations, and so forth. They use their energy to act. World-class leaders understand that “the facts are the facts” and do not allow emotion to unnecessarily derail their leadership actions and decisions.

Be Counterintuitive

World-class leaders realize that the difference between man and animals is our ability to reason. Simply because something “feels right“ does not make it right. New leaders use reason. The best of the best are willing to challenge themselves and step outside of their comfort zones.

Unprecedented challenges face today’s leaders. It is critical to think creatively about challenges and be willing to change directions—even in ways that do not feel natural—in order to improve. What worked in the past will not always work in the future.

For over a century it has seemed intuitive that experience equals leadership, tenure equals wisdom, and the best producer will make the best manager. Leaders need to challenge themselves on these outdated concepts. Leaders need to be counterintuitive.

Experience has never equaled leadership. Leadership equals leadership. The best performer may or may not make the best manager. The most tenured employee may or may not be the best leader. Time may well develop technical skills, but it takes focus and development to grow leadership capabilities.

It may seem counterintuitive to most business owners to invest proactively in leadership development. However, what is required for improvement may well be counterintuitive. Investing in leadership development is critical for winning the war for talent.

Don’t Wait

Time is not on your side. Organizations and leaders who act quickly will have a distinct advantage for attracting and retaining talent. Things are moving far too quickly to hesitate. Organizations that “get it” and act decisively to build leadership into their organizational DNA will be the winners.

Speed is widely recognized as a strategic advantage when it comes to product development. Speed is always seen as an asset in product development and being first to market. The same mentality should be taken as it related to “first to market” in your industry with you becoming the employer of choice. To become an employer of choice will require leadership development, reproduction, and replication at all levels.

Oftentimes, for people development in organizations, a much slower approach is taken. Too much time, energy, and effort is spent on analyzing the content, deciding who should participate, trying to gain buy-in across several constituencies, and so forth. This will only guarantee a watered-down solution, if a solution is even implemented.

Act. Act now. Beat your competitors to the talent acquisition marketplace.