Top 3 Ways to Groom Future CEOs

Man looking out of a skyscraper window


Do you have the right leadership team in place, and are you pushing them to think and act like CEOs?

As I’ve often shared, every organization’s growth plan starts with its leadership team. It would be best if you had a strong, aligned, high-performing team in place to execute on your strategy. Once you have the right people in place, are you giving them the freedom they need to thrive as leaders? Are you pushing them to think and act like CEOs?

A recent Harvard Business Review article examined several companies known for producing highly successful CEOs from their ranks. They identified three distinct practices found in each of the companies—practices that diverged from the standard approaches of other similar-sized companies. While the HBR article focuses on larger organizations, I think the lessons apply to any business with a growth mindset and commitment to employee development.

Here are three practices:

  1. Give leaders broad authority. CEO-grooming organizations provide their managers with meaningful decision-making authority. Create opportunities where your leaders oversee budgets, people, and strategy—mini-companies within your business where the decisions they make have a real impact on the company. HBR’s research showed that highly decisive leaders are twelve times more likely to succeed.
  2. Could you encourage them to think like CEOs? Push your leaders to mimic the behaviors of the most successful CEOs with a laser focus on metrics and value creation. One of the companies HBR studied, Rohm and Haas, ingrains in its leaders a sense of accountability to five key stakeholders: customers, employees, investors, community, and process. The research shows that leaders who engage these five voices to produce results were two times more likely to be successful CEOs.
  3. Challenge strong performers early with significant opportunities. Identify your high-potential managers and send them into unknown areas with minimal support. These bold bets are career catapults. They will gain confidence and experience with every challenge given to them.

Of course, this requires CEO commitment. You must be comfortable stepping back and allowing your leaders to fail and succeed on their own. As their leader and mentor, you’re there to help them learn from each opportunity and grow stronger as future CEOs.

Everyone wins in this scenario. Your strongest team members feel empowered. You’re able to back away from micro-managing every aspect of our business. Mostly, your business benefits from the strengthened leadership infrastructure and the preparation of future CEOs.

Jill Belconis works with growth-minded CEOs who want to scale their companies. As a Scaling Up Rockefeller Habits Certified Business Coach, Jill combines all these tools with her CEO leadership experience to move the company forward. She facilitates meetings with executive teams to develop strategic plans, instills proven accountability methods for executing on the ideas, and attains results by gaining alignment throughout the entire organization.


This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of the REAL Trends Newsletter. It is reprinted with permission of REAL Trends, Inc. Copyright © 2020. To read the rest of this issue & more, please visit our Real Trends page online.


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