Leadership Pipeline in small organizations

Leadership Pipeline in small organizations
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This is a topic that concerns me since some time. I usually worked in large organisations, that can make use of their size to dig deep for talents. This is a luxury, to get around people with the most different and interesting skills, to work with them and to create teams and leaders.

But, it struck me that this is like when you are playing strategy games. The most difficult part is when you went through the first levels and you have to go through the first serious level. When the learning ended and now you really have to work hard to make it. With that, I started to think that this big discussion over leadership and why it is important could be true, but has many many facets that you can’t read in Harvard Business Review.

Growth rate and strategy for exchange

First of all, you do not have much personnel. With the people you have, you need to make it, doesn’t matter which are your plans. Any business needs a growing plan, otherwise is a plan to close the business. It might be a tremendous growth in percentage, like tripling the sales. But when you count as the 9th figure after the dot in your market, this means merely nothing for the outside people. Therefore you don’t impress anyone and you need to rely mostly on your self. It is very seldom that you can bring on board beginners, people which are not very qualified or even some people that merely make the job, but this is what you can get. No worries, this is how it starts. You need every contribution in the first place and you can’t afford to exchange people very often. So stay close to your people and grow together. Be, most of all, creative in overcoming the short comings. This could become your culture as a company, could bring people together and give a boost in hard times when your crew could back you up.

Don’t fool your self, in small organisations you won’t usually find the guys which are the sky rocketing talents. You can’t keep them for long, unless, maybe you bring them as partners. But every time you need a fresh face, try to hire with the following in mind: I bring a person that will help me to grow. It’s a no-brain-er, but it is often the case when one wants to replace a position instead of improve the situation on the mid-term. In a small organisation, it is always a scarcity of resources.


Yet, objectives of your small organisation could be big. You don’t need to plan linear. Plan big, plan exponential. Easier to say than to do. However, the big goals, the transformative missions of your organisation could help you bring other gifted people near you. Aim high and execute brilliantly. This is how other people will join you. That moment when other leaders will follow you. Of course, when you just want to survive, you don’t need to be so sophisticated in your strategy.

To get others to follow, go above and beyond and share your ideas and results. And be genuine in helping others to progress. As Cialdini explained , reciprocity is one of the key principles of influence. When you help others to progress, they would be willing to help you later and, more important, would feel good to work with you. Put on top of this the fact that this would be become a cultural characteristic of your organisation (let’s grow together) and this could be your USP.

So people like to be part of success – theirs and organisation’s success.

Peculiar leaders

When you are working in a small organisation, you can’t expect that you will find always the people who match the ideal characteristics of a leader. Sometimes, the ideal leaders do not fit in your special setup. For a small organisation, you might look better to people which do not look like leaders, but have an open mind and willingness to learn. Why? Because leadership can also be taught. Spend some time to share your experience and consider to use consultants to turn average people into leaders. Sometimes, just training some special guys into a few tricks could improve dramatically the performance of the team instead of hiring a very experienced manager.

The first thing you need to asses when starting such an endeavor is how effective his communication skills are. Not how much he speaks, how good the slides are and how much she says that he likes your way of working. Second, is how fast is she learning. Forget the slow learners, they will be kicked out by the team. Better take a young fast learner than an experience guy who seems challenged by changes.

Don’t forget your people> Have a plan for them

I like the no-brain-ers. It is obvious the people are the most important asset of an organisation, but very often they are forgot. There is no plan to make them better, to improve always their skills. But, most of all, there is no clear understanding what is in it for them. Try to always align a development plan for them. That will show progress in 3 directions: personal mastery (of a certain domain), career opportunities (not guaranteed, but foreseen) and financial development. With these 3 in mind, you will find on the way the necessary leaders.

All in all, be more creative, aim high, love your people and take peculiar leaders into consideration. 




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