The Leadership Pipeline:
How to build the leadership-powered company

Reviewed by: 
Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter and James Noel
First, 2001
Alistair Schofield, Managing Director, Extensor Limited

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This book is about the leadership skills and values (there is a difference) needed at different levels of an organisation and the behavioural transition that should take place when moving between each level in the leadership hierarchy.

It is based on a process first implemented in General Electric where the approach was adopted to ensure a continuous supply of home grown leaders capable of filling positions at the highest levels of the company.

Central to the book is the philosophy that leadership can be taught and developed, provided that people are aware of the behavioural transitions that need to take place between one level of management responsibility and another. As the authors put it 'organisations have a tendency to promote people with the expectation that they have the skills necessary to handle the job rather than the knowledge and skills to handle a particular level of leadership.

The book describes six key transition points, which they refer to as 'passages'. The first is the move from managing yourself to managing others. While this transition point is in my opinion generally very well understood, the second, that of moving from being a manager to managing managers is much less well understood, but is in fact a far more difficult transition to make.

In the subsequent transitions they describe the process of moving from divisional director through to group chief executive of a large company, although they do point out that these various levels of leadership tend to exist within most medium and large organisation.

With each level the authors describe the new skills and values one must acquire and which they must leave behind before making the move to the next level, as well as how to measure whether someone has them before promoting them. They also show how to determine whether candidates are embodying those skills and values once they have been promoted and how to prepare them for the next level.

The book describes the succession planning process within an organisation as being like a 'pipeline' (hence the title) and describes how, unless individuals are successful in making the transition at each level, the pipeline can become blocked, with a tendency then for high potential people below the blockage to leave.

In my opinion this is an excellent book that should have a place in most manager's or aspiring manager's bookcases. I would especially recommend it to anyone involved in senior management recruitment, in succession planning or in any form of executive coaching.

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