4 Trends in Executive Successor Development You Need to Know

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Ensuring your business has the right leaders in the key roles is a constant challenge if you are business owner or head of a business unit and by far, is the most common challenge my executive coaching clients face.

This requires astute planning in two ways.  First is keeping your current leaders growing and sharp, and second is to prepare those who will potentially become their successors.  Here are some trends to help you to tackle both.


Research was recently conducted by the Management Research Group (MRG), the global leadership assessment developer I’ve used in my coaching practice since 2002.  They looked at trends from 2001 to 2014 in terms of what leaders are actually doing in their organizations to see if the way people are leading today is different. They found 4 leadership practices that have significantly changed.

  • Strategic has increased for mid and senior level leaders suggesting a growing importance of strategic ability at all levels. This means putting more focus on planning in multiple time frames, systemic thinking, anticipating intended and unintended consequences, and anticipating the ripple effect of our decisions.
  • Increase in collective leadership. There has been a growth in leaders not needing to have all the answers themselves to finding answers together.  The leadership behavior they refer to as “Self”, which is a reliance on one’s own decision making, has gone down dramatically.
  • Increasing risk aversion: Leaders are becoming more conservative, minimizing risk, using lessons from the past.  This is supported by a decrease in innovation, less comfort with risk, an increased desire not to make mistakes, and to be more careful.
  • Emotional Intelligence on the rise. There are some indications for a growing appreciation of softer skills at senior levels.  This is evidenced by lower dominance and higher empathy.


I was not surprised to see these findings.  I reviewed the leadership goals of all my clients from 2014, and 85% were focused on strategic leadership – either for greater mastery in themselves or as a leadership practice they were developing in their executive successors.  I’ve also seen a trend for the past 4-5 years of companies engaging me to work with their high intensity leaders to become better collaborators with others.  Very few leaders are effective at both.



Anticipate your business needs for the year. What are the key challenges, goals and opportunities facing your top leaders?  How much do the leadership trends apply to your top leaders and the work they are doing?  If you answered yes to one or more of these trends, read on.


Assess how well your top leaders are performing in these areas. If you know there is room for more quality expression of these leadership qualities, challenge your current leaders to step it up.  I don’t know too many senior leaders who believe they are ever going to be done learning how to be strategic.  In this recent blog, I shared a case study of how challenging it is for leaders to strike the right balance between short term vs. long term focus.


Get going on grooming your future executive successors. If your business is like most I’ve seen, many of the up and coming leaders would like to be more strategic leaders but they are expected to be more in the trenches in the day to day details.  Too often, the crisis of the day wins.  Emerging leaders need senior leaders to support them with such things as including them on a strategic project or a stretch goal, beyond their normal scope of responsibility. Here is an Executive Successor Development Strategy you can follow right away.

One of the fastest and most accurate ways to develop your  executive successors is to give them an objective view of how they are actually leading compared to the way they think they are and the way you need them to be.  A 360 degree assessment will ground their focus on a realistic view of what to work on.  Whether their development goals fit these trends or in other areas, your business needs a bench of leadership talent that is ready when you need them and they need time to get there.

If your business is seeking to accelerate the readiness of your future executives, Ring Results can help you kick start a successful year!  We have numerous case studies that show the power of accelerating the readiness of future executives with the help of powerful 360 degree assessments.

Are you being handed the keys to a new leadership role and are afraid of the sink-or-swim approach? Are you an executive stepping down but worried you might push your successor into the deep-end without a life-raft? Download this free expert guide to leadership transitions and ensure everyone will be swimming easy!

Is your Executive Successor ready for the transition?  Are you? Tell us below!

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