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Identifying and developing talent

When I first went through the IT Leaders Program, we talked about an often-forgotten part of the "leadership" role is transition planning - preparing the next generation of leadership to eventually lead the organization. When you don't have this kind of future leadership development, you trap yourself as a leader, and you make things much more difficult for the organization as a whole.

Look at Apple: Steve Jobs is (arguably) the driving force behind the company. With his leadership, Apple went from being the IT industry underdog to the "must watch" IT company. For example: in 2001, Steve Jobs announced the first iPod to a small audience, and the room still had a few empty seats:

In 2011, tickets for Apple's huge WWDC event sold out in hours, and scalpers sold tickets for more than $5000 each. And this year, rumors ran wild about what Apple might introduce for the next year. So in 10 years, Steve Jobs turned that company around.

But unfortunately, there hasn't been any transition planning at Apple. There's no visible development of a future leader who can take Steve's place when he (eventually) leaves the company. As a result, rumors also ran wild about Steve's health concerns, and whether or not Steve would even appear at the event that announced iPad 2. And the company's stock price dropped - predictably.

Jim Bolt wrote a great article about Identifying and Developing Talent, for FastCompany. This is really the start of a conversation about developing future leadership, but it's worth reading. This quote at the beginning of the article sums up the issue nicely:

Identifying and developing the next generation of leaders is as hot a topic as you can find these days. Pretty much everyone agrees we have a leadership shortfall, if not crisis, looming on the horizon -- and many would argue we are smack in the middle of it already. Many organizations tell me that they don't think they have, or will have, the leadership talent needed to achieve their growth strategies. Ouch.

As a leader, if you are aren't planning for the next round of leadership, you are missing a very important part of your role.