Overcome the Talent Shortage: 4 ways to turbocharge emerging leaders


Developing emerging leaders already within your organization is a strategy for overcoming talent shortages that may be viable for you.  This article provides 4 ideas for helping new leaders to step into and be successful in high stakes stretch roles.

According to the 2021 DDI Global Leadership Forecast only 11% of HR leaders say they have a strong bench to fill leadership roles.  The same report finds that only 47% of leadership roles can be filled now.  How does this match your observations within your organization?  In the past 2 years, I have worked with at least 5 companies that have spent months searching for candidates to fill key leadership roles.  The result of going extended periods of time without filling key roles tends to be missing out on revenue gains, struggling to execute on change initiatives, and increased stress within the business.  At a personal level, those struggling to find quality candidates may become frustrated as the opportunity to grow their own impact stalls as roles go unfilled.  

Beyond the specific requirements of the position, emerging leaders must have these 3 factors present to be successful while taking on a high stakes stretch role.  When one factor is missing, there is a good chance that things won’t work out.

  • Aptitude.  There may be some limits in knowledge, skills, or experience in relation to what is needed, but the candidate must have the potential to learn and grow.
  • Desire.  It won’t go well if the person doesn’t truly want to take on the role you have laid out for them.  They need to want it and be willing to invest time and energy to become successful in a stretch role.
  • Set up for success.  They have enough time, resources, and support within the organization needed to do their jobs.

Provided that all above factors above are present, here are 4  strategies to help an emerging leader to be successful in a high stakes stretch role:

1. Set clear expectations and give feedback. Emerging leaders, and anyone else stepping into a stretch role need to understand what is expected of them, and hear real-time feedback about how they are performing against expectations.  Here is a short list of potential expectations to discuss:

  • What does success look like after the first 30 days? After 90 days?  By the end of the first year?  How will success be measured?
  • Expectations for working independently vs. collaboratively with you and others
  • Resources available when help is needed (people, training, financial).
  • Constraints to be aware of (budget, time, people).


2. Strengthen Potential Blindspots.  Emerging leaders sometimes need help in expanding their mindset, behaviors, and toolset for operating at a higher level.  This could mean addressing blindspots that were not a hinderance in their prior role.  Here are a few examples:

  • Technically savvy and now need to communicate a vision or build consensus.
  • Solid as a practitioner and now need to mobilize others and delegate for results.
  • Strength in relationship building and now need to hold others accountable.
  • Exceptional vision and strategy and now must leverage systems and processes.

Executive coaching helps leaders to develop the behaviors and mindset needed for success in a new role.  The process often starts by assessing where you are today in relation to the competencies needed for the new role.  From there, a plan is built to strengthen the selected competencies in a measurable way. Consider reaching out to learn more about how I can help.


3. Build Their Connectivity & Exposure.   Success and productivity are often accelerated when a sponsor helps emerging leaders to build connections.  Here are a few examples of actions a sponsor can take to help the new leader achieve solid footing at the onset:

  • Introduction to internal and external support partners that the new leader will work with. Do so in a way that signals your respect and confidence in the new leader. 
  • Give the new leader a visible leadership role at team meetings including offsites, town halls, and all hands. 
  • Assign the new leader to high-value / high-visibility priorities. 


4. Guardrails & Adjustments.  You will need to find the balance point on the spectrum of “directing” vs. “coaching & mentoring” considering your situation.  This balance point will depend on the new leader’s readiness and the risk / criticality of their responsibilities.  If readiness is low and the criticality of their position is high, you may consider being hands-on in supporting them until they are fully ready.  In other situations, it may make more sense to step back and provide feedback and coaching as the new leader steps into their role.  Realistically, having a new leader take on a stretch role doesn’t always work out.  Track progress and be ready to make adjustments if things go amazingly well, or poorly.  


But what if you don’t have any emerging leaders?  This has probably not been a really helpful article then.  Reach out to me directly and we can discuss some strategies that fit within your situation and constraints.  There are solutions out there that were not the focus of this article.  You can email me or set up time with me depending on what you prefer.  Chris@motion-spark.com 


Conclusion.  The current talent shortage constrains the growth and advancement of many businesses, as key leadership positions often take long periods of time to fill.  A mitigation within your control may be to leverage emerging leaders already within your organization to step into stretch roles with your support. I’m certain that complexities and constraints will come to mind as you think through implementing any of the ideas listed above.   Consider reaching out to explore how I can help you find a solution specific to your environment:  Chris@motion-spark.com 


About the author

Chris Musano has worked for 18 years helping leaders and teams to succeed through high stakes change.  As a consulting executive leader, he has hired and led more than 500 people across 6 countries, run 8-figure P&Ls, and worked with 10+ fortune 500 companies to drive complex change.  Chris is a Certified Executive Coach and entrepreneurial investor that has founded 3 startup businesses.  He lives in Charlotte NC, USA and helps clients all over the world to build impact, clarity, and influence in reaching their goals.  Consider reaching out! Chris@Motion-Spark.com.  Learn more at https://motion-spark.com


Cover photo by Dinielle De Veyra on Pexels