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Leadership Development

How To Develop Effective Leaders for Current and Future Roles

Develop effective leaders for current and future roles
Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

Build a leadership pipeline with the right development mix

Learning and development has faced the same dilemma for a long time: what is the best balance between developing leaders for a current role while also preparing leaders for the next role?

Naturally, our time and attention get divided between in-place development—helping an employee excel in his or her current role—and next-place development—guiding him or her toward what’s coming in the next role.

In the past, many leaders were only promoted into the next role when we felt they were fully ready.

In today’s complex and rapidly changing environment, no leader will ever be fully prepared for that new role. With today’s changing business demands, only promoting leaders who are fully ready is stunting the growth potential of those leaders and their organizations. The best time to promote a leader isn’t when they are fully ready, it’s when they are ready “enough” and able to learn on the job while still being able to have an impact.

Depending on the organization, how exactly development breaks down between in-place and next-place will vary. While preparing leaders for future roles is critical to building or sustaining a strong bench of successors, you also need people contributing to the business needs of today. Luckily, there is certainly some overlap betweeen in-place and next-place development strategies.

Common in-place development often includes:

  • Intensive leader development programs that include mentoring, coaching, and action-learning experiences
  • 360-degree assessments to identify current leadership improvement areas
  • Professional or industry association involvement
  • Leading a key functional project


However, finding opportunities for leaders to practice in-place skills will not be effective unless organizations also innovate program design and delivery methods to ensure that skills learned are reinforced in their day-to day environments. The key is to think about experiences instead of events and to provide reinforcement that:

  1. Helps leaders understand WHY achieving the desired skill or behavior change is important to them.
  2. Reinforces HOW leaders can master their new knowledge and skills. 
  3. Allows leaders to practice WHAT to apply and WHEN to apply it.


Next-place development options include:

  • Executive education programs and advanced degree program (e.g., MBA)
  • Cross-functional, cross-business, or international assignments
  • Coaching focused specifically on identified future development needs
  • Leading a major organizational initiative or full-time strategic project assignment
  • Executive mentoring
  • Volunteer leadership/board role in an industry or professional association


In the end, developing employees for both now and the future benefits the employees and the organization. With a strong pipeline of ready-and-able leaders, the organization will thrive.

As you plan for the development of leaders for current and next-place roles, join us for an in depth look at the trends affecting leadership development overall by downloading the materials from our webinar, The Inside Track: Top Trends in Leadership Development 2017.

Download an Overview of The Leadership Challenge

Lauren Parkhill

Lauren Parkhill leads the marketing team in creating creative content that helps organizations develop their leaders and teams.