The other day, Eve Pyle, our Marketing Coordinator at Solutions 21, passed along an interesting quote by Neale Donald Walsch: “A true leader is not the one with the most followers. But the one who creates the most leaders.”

This quote really has me thinking about many of the conversations we are currently having with clients. It seems as if strategic planning, to include succession planning, has been on many business owners’ minds. We are working with folks all over the country on developing the next level of strategy AND talent.

It seems as if the great recession strayed focus from resources normally used to develop future talent. Once the recession ended, many business leaders found they had a talent gap. When businesses would normally be developing future leaders, many went five to ten years without doing so.

Today, many organizations are scrambling to close this gap. We have worked with companies around the world to help them fast-forward next generation leaders. Successful business people know the aforementioned quote to be true. The one who creates the most leaders is a true leader.

If you are an executive looking to close this gap, there are a few things we would suggest you consider. First is to provide some type of “game film” for your future leaders. This will help them to understand their tendencies. Oftentimes folks do what feels right and fail to see other possibilities. Game film helps them to understand and deploy other options.

Next, we would suggest you have your folks join a leadership group. Cohorts are a powerful tool and allow individuals to develop a mastermind group and their network. Being able to strategize leadership challenges with a group of peers can be powerful.  Developing leadership by “going at it alone” is very difficult and does not provide the necessary feedback loop required for development.

Developing your leaders should have a mix of classroom and real world experiences. However, do not try to develop leaders in seminars. Avoid the three-day programs at all costs. Adult learners do not learn that way. The classroom interactions need to be spaced out so the skills taught can be put into practice. If adults could learn simply by classroom training and lectures then why do most Bachelors Degrees take four to five years and not just one intense summer?

Another key element is to provide a leadership coach. This is particularly true for Millennials, but it is also true across the board. A leadership coach will help keep individuals on task and challenge them when appropriate. A leadership coach is able to break down the “game film” in order to help a player overcome negative tendencies.  A leadership coach will also provide course corrections along the way and help folks implement the classroom component.

Having an outside coach is different from having an internal mentor. Yes. Internal mentors are very valuable. However, they may not have the time, training, or bandwidth to coach every mentee to the next level. Also, internal mentors, by definition, have an emotional connection to their mentees. A coach’s job is to take an unemotional and unbiased view in order to “make the players better.” Plus, internal mentors have a “day job” and often cannot find the time to dedicate to coaching their mentee. A coach’s job is to coach. That is their “day job.”

These are just a few suggestions to help you close the gap on developing next generation leaders. It is not easy, and it is not overnight, but we can make up for the lost time from the great recession.

“A true leader is not one with the most followers. But one who creates the most leaders.” How are you developing your next generation of leadership talent?