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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

Senior Leaders vs Emerging Leaders

In some organizations, a huge challenge that emerges over time is a dissonance between incoming emerging leaders, and present established senior leaders. This is not really about levels in an organization, rather tenure and timeline.

Established leaders, if they are not careful, start playing not to lose. They become assimilated into the organization's history and background and this creates a resistance to change. They get defensive of their positions and leadership equity they perceive they own. They get a little envious and fearful of emerging leaders, not wanting to share, listen, or invest in them. They see the obvious shortcomings (nobody is a fully developed leader, regardless of tenure or level) in the emerging people, who sometimes they believe are climbing much too rapidly compared to their own individual journey with the company.

Emerging leaders, on the other hand, are playing vigorously to win. They are excited, energized, passionate, and eager to advance and climb the org chart. They do not have years of failures in their career experiences and memories, and they do not believe achieving a higher level of accountability and leadership should take decades. They see things that should be fixed or need attention now and they are looking for these opportunities as vehicles for them to shine and perform.

This tension and dichotomy creates two different mindsets inside the company, two different value systems. One of the greatest challenges senior leaders face is to relieve this tension while keeping everyone excited and engaged. If you are leading an organization and you are not having this challenge, you face two other issues. Either you don't have very excited and capable emerging leaders, or your organization has grown very complacent. These are important issues to face and solve as well. Not having any youthful and energized leadership percolating under the surface in your succession planning is a major issue.

Once you realize this tension exists between senior leaders and emerging leaders, you must prepare the senior leaders to deal with this issue. Prepare your organization in a way so you can inject new leaders into it. Hone in on your senior leaders and bring them up to speed on what you see in both camps. Open your arms to them and thank them for their years of work and success in the organization and then share with them what you observe with the newer, emerging leaders, and ask them for help to bring unity and engagement for both sides. The elder should be taking the first step toward the younger. A reminder again, this is not just in demographic, but also in tenure in the company.

At that point, if they do not respect, honor, and receive the new, emerging leaders, you are going to face tough decisions around your talent roster as time goes by.

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