How to Build Your Leadership Pipeline From Within

Leaders are difficult to find, so why not create them?

Courtesy of Vlad_Chorniy / Shutterstock

Millennials are increasingly taking the leadership reigns as 61 million Generation Zers enter the workforce; this represents an ideal time to strategize about your company’s approach to developing future leaders.  

Younger professionals have different needs and expectations than their predecessors. Gen Z is driven by impact and purpose. They seek employers that are socially conscious and mission-driven. Flexibility is a necessity for Gen Z. They are high-tech, high touch and interactive. 

In addition to new learning and working styles, Gen Z brings greater diversity. Managing for inclusion and leveraging different skills is important as the newest generation incorporates into an already diverse workplace. 

Mentoring relationships are key to leadership training, and they are important to Gen Z. In the book Decoding Gen Z, author Mark Beal’s survey finds that: “Mentorship was even more important for Gen Z than time-off and being able to work remotely.” Gen Z professionals are eager to learn from their colleagues. 

How can we deliver on their curiosity and unleash their potential? Create an open dialogue in an environment where new ideas are welcome. This encourages young employees to try new things and to view challenges as opportunities-lessons to learn. In parallel, leaders should lead by example, sharing challenges they’ve overcome while mentoring future leaders on how to trust their instincts.

Leadership savvy is a learned skill that grows with coaching, practice and support. Mentoring others is an ideal way to learn and practice leadership skills. Mentorship reinforces learning on the job by leveraging those who are in the best position to observe, coach, reinforce and role model values. 

Providing mentorship opportunities to future leaders is an excellent way to keep valuable team members engaged and advancing within the company. At the same time, it creates an internal leadership pipeline. Mentoring future leaders benefit stakeholders at all levels. Here’s what you need to know.   


Foster a mentoring culture 

Establishing leadership as a corporate value can yield measurable results. Companies must re-evaluate and re-energize mentoring and development programs to meet workforce needs. This requires buy-in from the top. When leaders endorse a program, it sends a message throughout the culture and makes the ambition real. 

Be explicit about what the mentoring program aims to accomplish. Celebrate the program, so it’s recognized as aspirational. It’s an employee perk for those who exhibit leadership qualities-one more way the company contributes to employee development and invests in its people. Brand it as your company’s leadership academy.  

Engage your leadership team. Identify team members who exhibit the leadership potential that the program aims to develop. Then establish your mentor pool, designating leaders who are willing to teach, who role model company values and who are passionate about career development. Reinforce learning on the job using those who are well-positioned to observe, coach, reinforce and role model. Then resource them to engage one-on-one in a mentoring relationship. 

Future leaders are well-served by mentors who represent diverse viewpoints; to that end, create a diverse mentor pool. Mentors don’t have to do the same job as the mentee with whom they are paired. They may have similar backgrounds, strengths, challenges or experiences. Create the right culture to foster that connection.


Mentorship outcomes

When done well, a mentoring program can activate and inspire motivation and performance while providing structure to career development initiatives. It fosters inclusion and offers opportunities to high-performing employees. The success of the mentoring program can be tracked and measured through internal promotions, internal transfers, and retention rates. 

Mentoring programs also create satisfaction for those who engage as mentors. It creates opportunities for them to reflect on their own leadership practices, keeping the cultural emphasis on leadership development fresh and dynamic.


Leveraging reverse mentoring 

Mentoring is a shared learning opportunity. It’s not only senior professionals who have important insights to articulate. Reverse mentoring offers young professionals, including Gen Z, the chance to share their unique skills and experience with their more seasoned colleagues. 

Some of Gen Z’s skills include their technological fluency, collaboration and innovation. Extending opportunities for young professionals to use their budding leadership skills to impart these skills benefits them and those they mentor. It adds dimension to your corporate leadership program, and offers young professionals the chance to develop their mentoring skills. At the same time, it allows senior professionals an opportunity to refresh their skill set. It’s a win-win for your mentorship program and your corporate culture.  


Leaders teaching leaders 

Facilitating mentorships for future leaders benefits professionals on both sides of the relationship. It enriches your culture by instilling leadership as a corporate value. It leads to a healthy culture rich with internal advancement and retention. Mentoring builds a legacy of leadership into your culture that stands to shape your company’s next generation of decision-makers.


Originally published on Glassdoor.