Companies with leadership development programs have top talent waiting in the wings.

“Survival of the fittest is not the same as survival of the best. Leaving leadership development up to chance is foolish.” – Morgan McCall

When McCall says this, he is speaking to all hiring managers and executives – really, he’s calling them out. Having a good business model today does not guarantee tomorrow’s success. A company has to continually commit itself, as a whole, to hiring and developing leaders to avoid talent gaps and shepherd the organization into the next era of prosperity.

I’ve been fortunate to be hired into one such leadership development program, and also place candidates into similar programs. I’ll never forget the feeling of stepping into a program that had been through many iterations, was continuing to evolve, and had the flexibility to be geared toward my personal growth as a leader and contributor. If you were to ask the folks responsible for implementing the program what drove them to start it, the answer would be very clear – to drive the development of a next generation of leaders, ready to take over when the time is right.

It is a telling contrast to see the insides of companies without that dedication to their next crop of leaders. It’s not necessarily the fault of a given hiring manager or executive when four production supervisors all quit or retire from one facility inside of eight months, right? Right. But what about when that hiring manager calls a recruiter and says this: “I need four production supervisors yesterday, and I don’t have time to train any of them because the sky is falling and I’m behind in my production schedule.” Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but failing to learn from the past makes it impossible to turn failure into future success. To be even more clear – not having leaders waiting in the dugout to take over when the time is right is a failure.

My advice is to BYOB, or Build Your Own Bench. Yes, turn that despised acronym we cringed at in college into something that will help you and your company. Get with your hiring managers and commit to a strong leadership development program that looks to the future. You can’t expect to hire a candidate who’s ready to lead your teams in a week. Use your program to set benchmarks for leadership candidates and match them with the best mentors your company has to offer. Then, the next time you have an exodus of leadership from your ranks, sit back and watch your bosses congratulate you on not even breaking a sweat in promoting replacements.

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