The Empty Escalator

By Donna J. Bear

In business workshops around the world, millions of people are pursuing skills to help them become one of tomorrow's corporate leaders. Trouble is, they're far fewer than companies will need. And when these potential leaders arrive at the top, will they have the right set of skills? Developing leaders to feed the succession pipeline should be an ongoing HR initiative.

A leader vacuum

The supply of leadership talent in the 25-to-44-year-old group will be short by some three million leaders by 2008 – at a time when the demand for such talent is increasing, according to Michael Echols, vice president of strategic initiatives at Bellevue University (Echols, 2006). Demographic projections show that the next generation of leaders – the Generation X cohort – is a much smaller field from which to select new leaders.

And with many Baby Boomers approaching retirement age and considering cutting back on positions of responsibility or hours, the demand for new leadership talent may be unmet. The shortage could complicate many succession plans and jeopardize business continuity, bringing a sense of urgency to HR's task of developing the talent needed for a robust succession plan.

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