To have time to think about time*


Leaders are hardened to sustained tough conditions, heads down in the strategy. But if they’re failing to appreciate the necessity of identifying those coming up behind them, and nurturing their potential successors, it’s no surprise that pipelines are dry.

Succession planning is more important than ever for all businesses, as they rely more on identifying the right behaviours their leaders will display and less on the knowledge they have. Gone are the days of ‘knowledge is power’, the leaders of the future will be those that know how to build trust and who are proactive and flexible. Ultimately, they will be the ones who have enough confidence to not feel threatened by the thought of someone stepping into their shoes, balanced with not being so confident that they don’t feel anyone is capable of stepping into their shoes.

Knowledge is so freely available in these current times; it is not surprising then that the all-knowledgeable leader concept is behind us. HR is in a good place to support leaders who need to really take ownership of the value in succession planning, as only then will they ensure they make enough time for this critical element of the future resourcing strategy.

If eyebrows are raised about “other priorities”, work really needs to be done to bring succession planning on the agenda, otherwise everyone is wasting their time. It also means that leaders need to have the skills and compunction to recognise these skills and values in others. Importantly, today it’s not about the black and white of the CV, the experience and qualifications gained, that dictates succession planning. To be competitive and in tune with modern expectations, succession planning must use personality profiles to bring more robustness and efficiency to the process. Certainly, this is not enough on its own, but the results interpreted from personality profiling can bring great insight for identifying future talent.

Indeed, if the leaders of today are to find the remarkable leaders of the future, having a better understanding of personality is key.


Remarkable people stand out because of their unique personalities. In practice we can see this playing out. Take a technically brilliant leader who is struggling with too much to do – with the use of a personality profile they begin to see that this technical brilliance means there is an over-confidence as to how good they are, which makes them feel that that others can’t step up to share the load. The leader pushes themselves to their limits and consequently other derailing behaviour starts to show, in the form of threats to their manager that they will resign – not a good position to be in if the manager burns out and there is no succession plan in place.

When looking at personality profiles they need to be interpreted appropriately for the given situation. The insights they give should then be used for regular performance conversations. If they have the right desire to learn, the organisation will get the people they need for the future.

Without a shadow of doubt, the inclusion of personality profiles brings more rigour to succession planning. It will also make the process more inclusive as they help remove biases. Ultimately, there will be more discipline involved and this can only be a good thing when it comes to helping choose the right people, including whether they are disciplined, balanced and brave themselves.

Succession planning is all too often ignored by management as it’s a task that potentially makes them feel uncomfortable – they are planning for someone else to take their job which leaves them where? However, for a business to move with the times and succeed in the future, doing the uncomfortable tasks is often the most important step.

What’s important to remember is that future planning is becoming evermore challenging with a fast-pace global rate of change, so pay attention to the key personality traits that will work with leaders of the future, rather than just considering skill sets and experience – after all, the roles that are being looked at with regards to succession planning might completely change in the next few years.


This article is from The HR Director magazine.


*Mark Knopfler – Basil (from the album Tracker, 2015)