Building a Sustainable Leadership Pipeline

Peer Learning Session: Building a Sustainable Leadership Pipeline

Building a sustainable leadership pipeline was the topic of our recent peer learning session, which saw HR leaders from a variety of world-class organisations join us for some good food, good company, and even better discussion.

The morning started bright and early with a somewhat overwhelming buffet spread, before moving in to the first activity where the participants were asked to identify two key challenges they faced within their organisation, when it came to building a sustainable leadership pipeline. They were also asked to identify one thing they would change about their organisation and explain why.

In this article we will share what answers they came up with, and in subsequent articles we will share what solutions they came up with to address the key challenges.


Building a Sustainable Leadership Pipeline: Challenge 1

Roughly 20% of participants claimed that one of their biggest challenges revolved around finding the right people internally who they could put into the leadership pipeline. In other words, there is a lack of internal leadership potential.

  • The quality of talent to begin with
  • To find the right people to be put into the pipeline
  • Bureaucracy
  • Predicability of business and people's aspirations
  • Unavailability of talent internally
  • Building a future ready mindset of tech savvy leaders
  • Transitioning from managing people to managing managers who manage people
  • Getting commitment from the CEO and senior management
  • Justifying investment required for development
  • Talent readiness for mobility
  • Well rounded experiential learning plan
  • Shifting gears, short term focus
  • Lack of internal talent
  • Potential assessment


Building a Sustainable Leadership Pipeline: Challenge 2

Retaining leaders in the pipeline was another fairly common challenge cited by participants. "We put effort into developing them only to lose them to a competitor with a bigger wallet", said one participant.

  • No clear leadership framework
  • Retention
  • Balancing of resources and building pipeline
  • Senior management commitment for leadership development
  • Retention
  • Competition
  • Unavailability of acceleration tools (right solutions, right price, time & resources to implement and spot)
  • Leakages in the pipeline @ senior levels for diverse talent
  • Getting a bigger budget for assessment tools for selection and talent development
  • Lack of resources and development
  • Visibility to the leadership pipeline
  • Develop them then they leave
  • Lack of abundance
  • Subjectivity of learning management


If you could change one thing in your organisation, what would it be and why?

Culture and senior management support were two issues that various participants wanted to change within their organisation. Some cited the need for increased budget to support development, while others cited the need to foster a learning / people development culture.

  • Better branding
  • Culture
  • Find a good partner
  • Commitment from senior leaders 
  • Creating visibility for internal opportunities (across the organisations) and helping associates move internally
  • Build external (hiring strategically) & internal (acceleration) pipeline
  • Culture on development
  • Alignment between talent development and leadership development
  • Culture based on precedent
  • Long term views and plans
  • Budgeting process
  • Lack of senior management support
  • HR system
  • Move faster


There's a quick overview of some of the challenges faced by HR leaders when it comes to building a sustainable leadership pipeline. In our next article we will delve into one of the four hot topics chosen by participants and share the solutions/best practices they came up.