Building the Next Generation of Leaders

Building the Next Generation of Leaders

With today’s global competition and fast pace of change, leadership skills are in fierce demand. In fact, when asked, almost a quarter of CEOs at the Best Workplaces in Canada identified “leadership development” as THE most important issue facing their organization.

In order for employees to TRUST their leaders, they must demonstrate critical leadership behaviors such as communication, competence and integrity. And these skills need to be learned somewhere.

A recent Harvard Business Review study found that although the average age of those in supervisory roles is 33, the average age of those attending leadership development programs is 42. Having untrained people in leadership positions not only ingrains bad habits, but can do serious damage to an organization1. So why the delay?

Forward thinking organizations realize that in order to build the pipeline for the next generation of leaders, people need to be given opportunities to hone these skills much earlier in their careers.

So how do organizations know when and where to begin with leadership development? Who should they be investing in? At what point in their career? And how do they ensure these skills, once learned, will transfer to the workplace?

There has been much debate over the effectiveness of classroom versus on-the-job leadership development. But in reality, these two worlds need to come together2. In order for on-the-job learning to be effective, it must be accompanied with a more formal process for reflection and distilling new learning into behavior. And in order for formal training to be effective, it must be grounded in the real world. The ultimate goal of both approaches is to educate and transform business leaders so that they can influence and inspire those around them and help their organizations thrive.

Regardless of how the leadership development is happening, one thing is clear: organizations cannot wait until a person is ready to move into a senior leadership role to develop these skills. According to Lisa Hendry, Associate Director, Client Services & Operations, Queen’s Executive Education at Smith School of Business, “At Queen’s Executive Education, we talk to hundreds of senior managers and executives in our classroom who tell us that succession planning and building the next generation of leaders is becoming a daily challenge.  Leadership development needs to begin earlier in a person’s career. Organizations cannot afford to wait until managers are in senior-level positions to start teaching them the skills required to be successful leaders, motivators, and coaches.”

Want to learn how the Best Workplaces for Learning and Development create a culture of learning?  Read our article here.



1 Zenger, Jack, We wait too long to train our leaders. Retrieved from, June 2017.
2 Stanford, Michael. On-the-job versus formal learning: The curse of 70-20-10. Retrieved from, June 2017.