leadership pipeline
July 29, 2014

How are you navigating the leadership pipeline?

By Paul Laughlin

It’s unusual for me to recommend a book that I don’t consider that well written, but Leadership Pipeline is such a book. The reason for my recommendation is this book effectively covers a key challenge for leaders & organisations. It also introduces a really useful model and set of tools.

My criticism is only the writing style. Perhaps I’ve spent too many years enjoying well crafted prose in fiction but I find the style used throughout this book to be a little wooden or clunky, certainly not a joy to read.

However, I would encourage you to persist as the rewards are worth it.

Understand where you are in the pipeline

The key benefit this book offers is its central model of how a pipeline of future senior leadership talent needs to develop in order to master different levels within an organisation.

In fact this model is also useful for those who will never reach the higher echelons but need to effectively take on a different level of management or leadership challenge.

What sets this model apart from many others is its focus on the extent of change needed by an individual to effectively move from one level to another. This is visualised by a pipeline that has ‘critical passages’ or zigzag like turns in the pipe.

Behaviour needed along leadership pipeline

The reason for such sharp turns is the extent to which mastery of a new level of leadership (say moving from managing yourself to managing others, or from managing managers to functional management) requires not just acquiring new skills but also letting go of skills they have served you well at the last level. Another plus is the book is packed with case study examples of leaders who fell into such traps.

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Each leadership level is described in-depth, together with both the new skills to be mastered and the ones that must be let go, to succeed at that level. Over the years many of these lessons have rung true to me and I’ve seen others benefit from advice to make these transitions.

Not just for general managers

It is a book focused on a general management leadership pipeline. The priorities and examples have that bias. However, lots of the lessons are also relevant to customer insight leaders and their teams.

Chapter 12 seeks to address some of this general management bias, through specialist advice for functional leaders. Some of this could be useful to those progressing toward the more senior Customer Insight Director or Chief Knowledge Officer roles now being created. For most customer insight leaders, I would recommend the chapters on transitions from Managing Self to Managing Others to Managing Managers to being a Functional Manager. They provide rich content for mentoring or performance reviews.

As with Time To Think, I will now return to chapter 13 on coaching with a fresh perspective (to inform my coaching work).