09 Nov Growing your own leaders: The power of succession planning

Developing leadership in your business shouldn’t be a reactive response to a sudden vacancy – it should be on your priority list every single day.

Despite the benefits of nurturing talent within a company to become the leaders of tomorrow, a large proportion of businesses still aren’t taking action to put this in place, and are having to scramble to recruit extremely senior positions from outside sources – a process which is often costly and definitely risky.

Growing your own leaders, pinpointing the skills your business needs in the future and putting a plan in place to make it happen could be key to driving sustained growth in your company, and The Talent Link can help you implement it.


What does ‘growing your own leaders’ mean?

Growing your own leaders refers to looking within your company to find the next generation of key team members and investing time to develop those, rather than recruiting them in from elsewhere.

There’s been much debate about the pros and cons of hiring from within but the advantages are clear. There’s a huge amount of risk in bringing in a brand new member of staff in a senior, decision-making capacity when they’ve no context of the company, its history, its processes and its culture – and that’s not to mention the costly compensation that can come with having to lure senior executives away from security in their existing role.

According to research by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM), there is a huge bias amongst senior professionals for favouring internal candidates, with 31% of those interviewed saying they had a strong preference for internal talent for top jobs and only 15% strongly preferring to go external. A third of professionals asked also agreed that they would be concerned about externally hired senior leaders not lasting as long as expected.

There have also been findings to prove that those hired from the outside can experience severe issues with performance, which in turn could impact the rest of the business. Mathew Bidwell conducted a study of over 5,300 employees between 2003 and 2009, with surprising findings which indicate that “external hires were 61% more likely to be fired from their new jobs than were those who had been promoted from within the firm.”

Implementing a culture that nurtures and promotes talent from within will also have a hugely positive impact on the loyalty and motivation of your team – being able to see a clear career trajectory within your firm and knowing that there is support in place to help them fulfil their potential will mean they can see a long term future with you, and you can successfully retain your top talent.

Planting the seed

Something that many businesses owners are aware of but that few actively do something about is succession planning. Succession planning is “like building a security net for your organisation and proofing it from risks that may result from critical leadership gaps and vacancies in the future” (Rosalind Cardinal, Huffington Post).

Succession planning is perhaps the most critical of tasks that senior executive should focus on in order to both guarantee longevity of success in a company and develop new leaders; “in addition to safeguarding critical business capabilities…succession planning also accelerates leadership development and maximises strategic talent leverage” (Rosalind Cardinal, Huffington Post).

There are three main phases of effective succession planning:

  • Mapping out the leadership roles and critical positions in your organisation, and identifying the key skills needed for each
  • Developing a succession plan and how you are going to equip candidates to move up the ladder
  • Spotting potential in your team and populating the succession pool


By taking the time to think strategically about what your company will look like in the future and the people who will be driving it forward, you are being proactive about developing leadership from within, not to mention minimising risk for the future. Donald Delves states that “without a strong succession planning program, companies are not prepared to fill openings created by retirements or unexpected departures, nor are they able to meet demands for additional corporate leaders resulting from growth”.

Driving your business to grow and expand is worthless if you don’t have talented leaders to make that expansion a reality. Investing your time in mapping out your business’s future and growing your employees into leaders is perhaps the most important action you can take to prepare your organisation for long term success.

Are you investing enough in supporting and developing your own leaders, or are you looking elsewhere?


Have you considered implementing succession planning to set your company up for long term growth?




The Talent Link are a fully approved centre for the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) and focus on leadership development at all organisational levels. To learn how we can design and deliver bespoke training programmes for your top talent, contact us on 0203 693 7380 or email

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