Leading From The Front

Part nine of the series originating from Dan Short’s article Retaining Top Performers, takes us into Leadership Succession territory, and the differing styles which have an impact (both negatively and positively) on our top performers as they navigate their way through the ranks. We look at how board effectiveness, as well as our methods and planning to support our future successors influence not only our top performers’ decision to stay within their organisation, but how they are supported and encouraged to carry on successful implementation of services, whilst upholding the company’s values.

As a senior level management professional, it is safe to say that your top performers will be taking in (in detail) your leadership style and implementation methods, along with how they might be fitting into the bigger picture, and, in future, be taking a walk in your shoes. As such, it is important to ensure the shoes they step into stay within your organisation and continue in a direction that not only maintains a successful trajectory, but also stays aligned to the organisational brand and ethos.

Changing Hands Through Changing Times

As those in senior level leadership roles head towards retirement, particularly within the UK housing sector, there appears to be an increasing gap between the older generation and style of leadership heading out the door and the newer, more modern approach from the emerging millennial workforce coming in to take their places. As mentioned in part 1 of the series, the old hierarchical models of leadership are no longer fitting of the modern work landscape, and the emerging millennial workforce now demands more autonomy, more flexibility, and a more ‘level’ approach to leadership, as technology helps to create a more transient, yet efficient work environment.

This would be enough of a challenge, however added to the fact many senior level staff have no implementation plan to share their valuable wealth of knowledge and skills with the younger generation, they are leaving no baton to pass down. To further compound the issue, middle management roles within the sector are continually being removed in order to cut costs and save resources, and executive boards are finding it increasingly difficult to find new members who are not only experienced and knowledgeable about the organisational processes, but also have a close enough connection with the people the organisation serves. These three vital issues must be addressed if the UK Housing Sector is to cope with the challenging times ahead.

The Part Boards Can Play

Executive boards could play a vital role in helping to bridge the gap between old and new. By encouraging our young key performers within the sector to become board members and link up with already established senior level executives, valuable insights into the organisational mechanics can be shared, as well as bringing a fresh perspective to those who are soon to be leaving, which can in turn help to find workable solutions and innovative ideas that can complement both ends of the spectrum to drive the organisation forward. This can also have added benefits, as creating a hotbed environment where all levels are encouraged to engage, also enables senior level staff to spot emerging talent who could be eligible contenders to take on their roles when they have long retired, and create a tailor-made succession plan to support the up and coming high achievers for every step of their journey. This will not only encourage top performers at an earlier stage to be a part of the decision-making process, but also encourages them to stay within the organisation as they see a clear career succession pathway ahead of them.

Christopher Kelly (Succession Planning For Non-profit Boards and Leadership) states board composition is a crucial component of a successful non-profit organisation. He believes that anyone in a board membership role or leadership capacity should exhibit a methodical understanding of the organisation’s mission along with the dedication to uphold and enhance that purpose. Although the following is specifically aimed a board membership, the same key strengths can be examined to ascertain whether an existing senior level professional is a strong and efficient leader, as well as using these elements to gauge whether an individual under that leader might be a contender for stepping up into a future organisational leadership position. We could ask:

1.      Does the individual have a strong enthusiasm for the organisation and its mission?

2.      Does he/she have an ability to interact productively with others on the Board, Committees and Staff?

3.      Do they have any reservations in lending a hand with the more mundane tasks?

4.      Does the individual assert a willingness to support and/or assist in [organisational strategy and planning]?

If the four above questions can be utilised and adapted to seek out eligible talent, the three crucial organisation structural elements behind the generation gap are addressed and more younger board members can be encouraged the organisation can be strengthened and driven forward in a positive direction.

By leading from the front an effective organisational leader is setting not only a good example but creating a precedent for up and coming talent to follow on from and align to. By being visible, approachable and fully conscious of one’s management style, it can be instrumental in paving the way for the next generation of leaders to thrive, succeed within the organisation, and create a smooth transition between those leaving and those moving up the organisational structure, whilst bridging the gap between old and new as the sector faces quite possibly its most challenging few years ahead. Whatever the future holds, with a strong succession plan, a modern and balanced leadership approach and a diverse executive board, public sector organisations have what it takes to succeed and be part of a positive force for change.

Alma Sheren is Head of Marketing and Communications for Greenacre Recruitment, and collaborates with the team and wider network on Leadership, Human Resources, Change Management issues and the challenges and transitions currently facing the UK housing sector.

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