What Is a Leadership Pipeline?

leadership meeting

by Ruth D Schwartz

Every once in a while someone will say to me that their management policy is to tell their employees that they are not allowed to just come to them to complain-they have to come with a solution too.

I always cringe when I hear that for this reason: people will stop bringing forward problems if they are belittled because they do not have a solution.

How do we make it safe for people at all levels of your organization to practice leadership?

Leadership has become a buzz word these days and I want to make it clear that my opinion is that we not only want to practice leadership, we want to practice followership.

In order to create a great leadership pipeline in your business you have to practice what it is to lead and what it is to follow and we have to make it safe in our companies to build a culture of being able to say what’s on our mind without repercussion.

So what is a leadership pipeline?

I’d like to look a leadership pipeline through the lens of a transparent, open-book company. When you create this kind of atmosphere, you invite people to, in effect, “complain” and not be concerned if they have the answer.

In order to create the pipeline you make it safe for anybody to step forward and lead the conversation, to lead the problem solving, and to lead the decision making in that group.

Jennifer was an obvious example of this. Her job in a distribution company was to do all of the invoicing-lots and lots of data entry.

The accounting department pointed out a high volume of mistakes she was making. She wanted to be successful, but at that stage she didn’t look successful.

When she looked at was happening, she realized that most of her mistakes were made later in the day.

Late in the day there was always be a big shipping crunch and everyone was under a lot of pressure to do a lot of work really fast.

Jennifer thought, “Well, I don’t know how to solve this problem for myself because it’s not just a matter of being more careful, it’s a problem of the rush that I can’t keep up with.”

She started to do some research. She reached out to different people in different departments.

When she finally felt strong enough to put it on an agenda for a meeting, she said, “I want to talk about the afternoon rush and the problem that I’m having keeping up with it. I talked to various people in the organization and I want to present what I’ve found and see what the solutions are going to be.”

Jennifer felt safe enough in this company to just lead the conversation and ultimately lead the change that was going to happen. But, and this is key, she had lots of support and input from everybody in the organization because it wasn’t just about a shipping crunch, it’s also about the sales department and their expectations of how quickly orders move out in any day.

It was a company-wide issue because everybody wanted to be able to please the customers and move product out the door as quickly as possible; therefore, everybody had a vested interest in solving the problem.

Did Jennifer find a solution? No, the whole company found a solution. And Jennifer found herself in a position for leading that conversation long before she had a solution to it.

In a transparent company, in a high-performing company, this is the way that we solve problems.

How would you like to create a safe place for people all across your organization to feel good about leading problem solving and decision making and a taking a wide view of the company even when they don’t have the answers?

Conversely, how do the leaders in the company take a follower perspective when somebody else is taking the lead?

Think for yourself, what would work in your organization and create yourself a leadership pipeline.

About the author

We must not only be great leaders, we must also be great followers. These are the guidelines for creating a safe culture and a pipeline of leaders at all levels of your company to lead without the fear of shame, or fear of failure or reprimand. To learn more about open-book management and leadership, visit http://highperformanceadvocates.com