Where Have All the General Managers Gone?

Even now, some senior leaders still haven’t made the connection. In a recent RHR International research study, fewer than 50% of senior executives polled agreed that their organization is effective at developing the next generation of leaders. In fact, developing talent and building succession plans are routinely rated as the areas in which companies are least effective. More troubling, though, is that these items are also rated lower on “importance,” meaning that the teams recognize it as an issue, but it’s not the most pressing item on their agenda.

“Fewer than 50% of senior executives polled agreed that their organization is effective at developing the next generation of leaders.”

CEO Acts as Culture Catalyst
Just as JIT systems require that the retailer at the end of the supply chain can accurately predict demand for its products, companies should begin thinking about future general managers in their earliest stages of recruiting and make their development a priority on an ongoing basis. This requirement goes beyond the scope of the human relations department and should be made part of the leadership culture by the CEO. The companies that do this well talk about it all the time; and as a result, they have a solid pipeline of general management talent and other senior staff leaders, as well.

Dynamic Leadership Progression
Development programs need not be highly structured and formal, but they should be aligned with the strategy and culture of the company. Think of executive development in three stages, with general managers in the middle. Early development (feeds into GM role) focuses on instilling a generic set of leadership skills and sharpening technical ability. Success at the general manager level answers the question of which leaders can make the critical transition to senior levels. High performance as a GM indicates that an executive can be developed for specific corporate roles.

When opportunities for revenue growth appear, it is vital that organizations have talented individuals developed, seasoned and ready just-in-time to meet the challenge.