In early 2020, we proposed an executive leader development scaffolding out of years of working with organizational performance, executive leadership development, and succession planning. After abundant conversation on how next-generation executive leaders might be developed after launching and growing the Maestro-level leaders initiative, we've updated it. Enjoy!
Conventional wisdom says that developing from within best continues a strong company's momentum and that hiring externally best redirects a company that has lost its way. In either scenario, the ability to develop and position executive leaders becomes especially important!
Out of these conversations comes the following scaffolding, which offers a simple overview and trajectory: 
1. When hiring and recruiting in general: Build leadership development expectations into any job description.

  • Use the Adizes method (or similar) in hiring, including writing a job description and desired candidate profile.
    •  Disciplined use of a method like this helps to quickly, consistently, and helpfully identify the best prospects.
  • Use other pre-existing internal tools for second and third-round interviews.
  • Hold interviews with the board/HR/Director/etc. to cover specific criteria related to the job and generic criteria surfaced by the board. For example:
    • ability to problem solve with future value in mind
    • ability to articulate the top/middle/bottom line of decisions that touch financial performance
    • ability to see and articulate near-, mid-and long-term while doing strategic thinking
      • Use a rating method to compile and rank/stack the above.
2. General ongoing leader formation sequence (expected of all current and potential C-level execs and their direct reports - choose multiples from the list below and add your own):

  • Enneagram - especially IEQ9
  • EQ measure and plan (Mygrow)
  • 3 Biggest Challenges (use an Outside Coach)
  • Dark Side of the Leader (use an Outside Coach)
    • Build on what the leader has already completed and tailor the time/sequence, expecting to complete this within 18 months of hire, with completion tied to executive compensation.
3. Individual ongoing leadership formation (built around the individuals who are current and potential C-level execs):

  • Articulation of an executive leadership theory and practice (Outside Coach)
  • Individual learning plan touching on any/all:
    • industry they serve
    • personal and/or skills development
    • Executive coaching —often tied to peer-based advising; see below
    • peer-based advising
  • Annual review — method changed every third year
  • Executive team development within the company
    • This ties to what the leader has already achieved and is tailored to the specific person and context. A high degree of accountability must be built in, reflecting both what the company needs and what the individual wants to achieve. This should begin to be developed by the second year of the executive's tenure.
Making executive leader development deliberate and an essential aspect of staff development and retention is necessary for any successful succession planning. There is no perfect system. What you have here is a starting point, one with which to get started and learn as you go.
Mark L. Vincent
Post by Mark L. Vincent
September 26, 2023
I walk alongside leaders, listening to understand their challenges, and helping them lead healthy organizations that flourish.