Cultivating Tomorrow's Leaders

A succession plan is critical to the future of any business, and James Roberts, 2006 chairman of the National Asphalt Pavement Association, emphasized the importance of developing tomorrow's asphalt industry leaders at the recent NAPA 2006 Convention.

Roberts stated that "a proper business continuation plan certainly requires the next generation of leaders in that business be properly prepared for the future. The leaders of tomorrow — the next generation — must understand and empathize with the needs of the employees — the experts — and let them do their work."

The leaders of tomorrow will need intellectual horsepower, strategic thinking skills, the ability to constantly adapt to change, increased organizational and personal communication skills, the ability to manage diversity, and the ability to delegate tasks and responsibilities to others.

A successful succession plan requires leadership development, with ample coaching and mentoring to develop the full potential of rising leaders.

According to Roberts, the leaders of tomorrow have a strong desire for challenging and meaningful work. They are less trusting of organizations and less accepting of traditional hierarchy and traditional approaches to management. Roberts recently asked 12 of his company's (Granite Construction) high potential leaders what traits they believe leaders of the future need to possess. Their response: Leaders need to be visionary, able to delegate, to be humble, to have passion, to be personable, to be positive, to inspire, to be aggressive risk takers, to have fun at work, to make others feel important, to be involved in the community, to be environmental stewards, to be one of the hardest working employees in the company, to do what they say the are going to do, to be disciplined, to set the standards in the company, to make tough decisions, and to create long-term opportunities for the next generation.

While the leaders of tomorrow will require different skills than the leaders of today and past generations, they will still have the same passion their predecessors had in building a strong company. As Roberts notes, it is up to the leaders of today to cultivate the leaders of tomorrow to keep that entrepreneurial passion flourishing.

I couldn't agree more. Succession planning should be a main component of your company's long-range business plan. Just as you plan for growth, you also need to plan for the people who will be responsible for that growth and manage it in a way that supports continued growth and profitability. Hopefully, your business plan goes beyond the year ahead and you're actually looking at where you want your company to be five years from now, and you've put together a strategy to get there. Take a moment to think about the people who will help you reach your goals, the people you want to lead your company five years from now, and begin to develop a leadership culture that will help your company's future leaders, you and your company succeed.

Greg Udelhofen, Editor