Leadership Pipeline

Building a Sustainable Leadership Pipeline

There can be no doubt... Having a sustainable leadership pipeline is a game changing competitive advantage. But how do you go about building one?

In our recent peer learning session, 20 senior HR leaders discussed this topic, and attempted to tackle some of the more poignant challenges that organisatons face when it comes to building a sustainable leadership pipeline.

In this article we are going to explore what elements go into building a sustainable leadership pipeline, and will follow up in the coming weeks with best practices contributed by the above HR leaders together with other industry experts.

So, what exactly what is a sustainable leadership pipeline? Simply put, it is the organisation-wide supply of leaders who are capable of meeting the challenges of the business today, and in the not too distant future.


Human Resource Leadership

Human Resources should not operate a silo… It is a critical organisation-wide function that provides strategic and tactical support for each and every link in the value chain.

Human Resource leaders have to engage with stakeholders at every level in an organisation. They must be experts in their respective fields, and be able to think and act strategically and tactically.

Human Resource leaders must be able to influence upwards in order to gain the necessary buy-in and support for organisational change!


Competency Framework

A competency framework is a clearly defined and measurable list of knowledge, skills, and behaviours required to perform the various roles within an organisation effectively. It is critical for the long-term success of an organisation, as it can help to:

  • Recruit individuals with a higher chance of success in any given position
  • Identify competency gaps, required training and non-training interventions
  • Link individual performance to organisational objectives
  • Develop individual succession plans


Career Pathways

Long-term organisational success is dependent on people, and people need to know what the future has install for them. This is where clearly defined carer pathways come in!

If a person joins an organisation as a janitor, are they expected to be a janitor for the rest of their tenure? What career pathways are there available for them, and what support is available to them if they chose to expand their horizons?

Career pathways need to be aligned with the competency framework.


Learning & Development

Having a clearly defined competency framework and career pathways is great, but is completely pointless if people within your organisation are not growing.

Organisations need to have a combination of strategic learning initiatives (classroom-based, online learning, knowledge bases, on-the-job training etc) that target specific competency gaps and support career progression.

Learning is a pre-requisite, and should never be treated as a punishment or reward. Everyone in the organisation should have access to learning opportunities!


Talent Management

Organisations need to identify and develop high potentials within the organisation who have the ability and aspiration to become the next generation of senior leaders.

High potentials will require developmental support over and above what is covered in the organisation’s strategic learning initiatives, which might include being assigned a mentor, job rotation and coaching etc.

Success profiles and expertly designed assessment centers are required for identifying and developing talent.



Attrition is inevitable… Organisations need to have a variety of recruitment solutions in place to ensure the pipeline is always full, of not overflowing.

Recruitment solutions should include a combination of employee referrals, targeted search and graduate trainee programs, and should only be used to fill leadership positions if there is no suitable candidate within the organisation.

Success profiles and expertly designed assessment centers are required to improve the chances of hiring the right person.



There can be no doubt that technology has a role to play in building a sustainable leadership pipeline, as technology enables an organisation to manage people, performance, results etc.

Organisations need to invest in technology that enables employees to manage their careers, technology that supports leaders in the development of their people, technology that promotes learning and performance management.


Performance Management

Irrespective of whether an organisation uses an annual appraisal, or has transitioned to a continuous feedback model, there is one thing we know for sure… Managing the performance of employees is critical to supporting their development and growth.

Feedback is a continuous effort, and should result in highly motivated employees who have a clear understanding of where they need to improve in order to progress.

Employee performance should be aligned with career progression.


In conclusion, all of the above factors play an important role in building a sustainable leadership pipeline. They require the involvement and support from various people within the organisation, and are not possible without a solid commitment from senior management.

Stay tuned... Over the coming weeks we will delve deeper into the above key areas.