The art of identifying and creating future leaders in an employee owned business

Organisations are complex human systems with a unique combination of relationships and circumstances. They demand a tailored approach to most critical decisions around its people.

And arguably, the most important people-based decision in a business will be leadership succession.

When you look at this alongside employee ownership succession, having the right successor identified with the necessary support to lead in a business where employees have a stake and a say is even more crucial.

The CEO is going to be a steward for the business and will need to consider its current and future stakeholders, for example its employees, customers, suppliers and the local community. A view on the long-term is essential – we have all seen the impacts of leadership overly focused on the short-term.

A rigorous process will be important, however relying on process alone may not get the right answer.

As in most decisions, a mix of ‘soft’ (emotional) and ‘hard’ (rational) elements will deliver a properly risk managed solution. Getting the art of leadership succession right is the most important task for whoever has the accountability of recruiting them. To achieve the best outcome the board needs to get the fundamentals right as well as answer certain critical questions long before a new Chief Executive is appointed.

  1. What does the current and future business context require from a new leader(s)?
  2. To what extent does the business require continuity or change?
  3. What impact will the departure of the existing Chief Executive have on relationships, skills, capabilities and culture?
  4. What attributes (soft and hard) do you need from the new Chief Executive?
  5. What sort of succession process fits with your organisation’s needs?
  6. What timescales should you set for succession and is it part of the ownership transition process?
  7. How does this fit with the proposed/new governance requirements?

These challenges provide the foundation for the recently launched Future Leaders Programme for Employee Owned Businesses. The programme is designed to help prepare potential internal candidates and ready them to take on the role of organisational leader in an EOB.

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