According to Kirk Kramer and Preeta Nayak at Bridgespan, the greatest challenge nonprofits face after resource constraints is leadership development. More often than not, leadership development is considered only when its time for a succession and by then its often too late.
The “Nonprofit Leadership Development: What’s Your “Plan A” Guide for Growing Future Leaders” as created by Bridgespan and referenced by American Express CEO Ken Chenault lays out a “Plan A” for treating leadership development as an ongoing process versus crisis response method.
“Plan A” is a three year road map which lays out an organizations leadership needs, identifies potential future leaders and works towards strengthening ad developing those leaders capabilities over an extended period of time. The top 5 processes are outlined below:
Engaging Senior Leaders
Senior leaders need to be held accountable for their development efforts. The CEOs need to directly represent the importance of leadership development and set expectations for the team. They can start by training and developing their direct team and the asking and expecting that they do the same for their teams beyond. This trickle down will set the bar through the organization and provide training and support to every group within every group.
Mapping Out the Future Leadership Team
Organizations need to systematically plan and strategize what the future leaders of the organization need in order to be as successful as possible in fulfilling the organizations strategy and goals. By assessing what competencies potential future leaders need, current leaders and put forth plans to adequately train those with high potential for those roles.
Developing Future Leaders
Based off of research, leaders are shown to have the most effective development when they have had a mix of 70% on the job learning, 20% time with coaches and mentors and 10% formal training. While most nonprofits do provide their staff “stretch” opportunities, it is beneficial to be systematic in doing so, consciously building the right skills in the right people over a period of time.
Filling Gaps with New Talent
Despite full planning, you can’t always find leaders from within the organization. At this point it’s important to have a plan to properly and wholly train and integrate new leaders to best prepare them for success in their new roles.
Monitoring and Improving the Process of Developing Leaders
The best way for nonprofits to track and measure their progress is to gather data and keep track of their progress and make adjustments as they come along.
Overall, developing future leaders is about how the organization goes about planning and training and committing to developing its staff for the future and beyond.