Is Your Leadership Pipeline in Good Shape?

Al Schnur
by Al Schnur

Al has personally conducted more than 5,000 high-level evaluations during his career, and is particularly proud that more than 250,000 candidates have participated in assessment programs he designed. At present, Al focuses on C-level succession planning and assessment in support of CEOs, Boards and other high-level stakeholders.

Building a strong and vibrant leadership pipeline is critical if you want to keep your company prospering during times of transition.

Organizations typically start failing to progress when ineffective leadership is placed at the helm, so it stands to reason that you need to identify and prepare potential leaders for their roles long before they are required to step up to the plate.

What can you do to build a healthy pipeline of leaders in your organization?

Every successful pipeline shares some common characteristics.

Active Leadership Development 

It sounds obvious, but your leadership pipeline must actually be geared toward developing leaders. It isn’t simply enough to identify who your high-potential employees are and project what roles they can fill—succession planning must be interwoven with leadership development.

This means identifying skills and attributes needed for leadership positions and then putting mentoring, coaching and training programs in place to help high-potential employees better develop.

Strong Lynchpin Positions

Leadership development requires a broader, big-picture view of your organization. Companies who want to build a healthy leadership pipeline start with identifying lynchpin positions within middle management and developing talent for those positions.

Why? Putting the right talent in lynchpin positions is critical for long-term success. These roles are usually tied to areas critical to a company’s growth and are good proving grounds in which high-potential employees can build and refine their leadership skills.


It’s tempting for senior leadership to shroud their leadership pipeline in secrecy to keep employees at all stages motivated.

But taking this approach isn’t necessary—or wise. Being transparent about where an employee stands can let them know what they need to do to climb the ladder.

Honesty will help an employee know what skills and experience they need to strengthen them in their existing role and prepare them for future roles – even if they aren’t quite executive material.

Progress Tracking

Developing leadership is about more than just pinpointing your next CEO. You need to have an accurate read on which employees are best suited for certain positions down the road. You also need to make sure those employees are moving at the right speed, so they are ready to move up the ladder when your organization needs them to take on a new role.

Measuring progress throughout the year can reveal problems before they become a big deal and help you see what is working well.


Any leadership pipeline works best when it can be adapted to meet changing needs and circumstances for a company. Succession plans are not written in stone and should be adjusted based on current information culled from leadership development programs.

Becoming too rigid in thinking and planning can cause your organization to overlook promising high-potential candidates who enter the pipeline later. Your recruiting and development efforts must be adaptable to changes caused by external forces, so you can be better positioned to deal with those challenges. 

Do Your Recognize Your Own Pipeline? Or Do You Have Work to Do?

 A healthy leadership pipeline makes it much easier to regularly fill key positions with internal candidates who are prepared to flourish in those roles. 

The best way to ensure a steady stream of leaders in your organization? Take an active approach in building and nurturing your pipeline.

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