One of the most critical questions facing companies is how to develop the next generation of leaders. We’ve talked a lot about the shrinking workforce and that today’s workforce market is lacking in qualified employees to fill the necessary job roles. Companies need to be proactive and prepared for future performance with a ‘ready now’ workforce.

We at Aruspex believe that the lack of people in leadership roles is not because there is a shortage of qualified workers; rather, it is a direct result of not Workforce Planning. Failure to consider the future impact of flattening structures in the organisation has resulted in the reduction in the number of middle management roles, diminishing the organisation’s capacity to produce vibrant leaders to sustain the business into the future.

One of the barriers to the development of future leaders is a failure to recognise leadership potential. Leadership is a very broad term – what it means to one person is not necessarily what it means to somebody else. There are many different skills and attributes that make a good leader, however, many people don’t recognize all of them.

To illustrate this, I was told about a recent Monash University leadership seminar on the topic of ‘future leaders’, where delegates were asked to write on a whiteboard the name of a great leader. The people listed, and their leadership styles, were as varied as the cultural backgrounds of the delegates: political figures like Mao Tse-Tung and Nelson Mandela to religious personalities like Jesus Christ, and even sports stars like Tiger Woods.

Whether or not we believe their ideas to be valid, there is no denying that these unique and contrasting individuals from various backgrounds had an exceptional ability to lead others. Apart from their leadership skills, they do have one thing in common, however, and that is that they’re prominent leaders in their fields. Many of our strongest leaders are not well-known or famous and these are the ones that we need to recognise and make the most of for the future workforce.

Leadership skills are not dependent on a University degree: they might not even be dependent on work experience or a managerial role. The single mother who has survived the death of her husband to raise a family on her own probably knows a lot more about leadership than the young University graduate who has been spoon fed his entire life. It’s just a matter of tapping into those skills and making them work in the workplace. This is particularly the case in the modern environment where fully qualified employees are hard to find. The best leaders might not be those that have been trained for it, but those that were developed leadership skills naturally.

Sometimes experience – in work and in life – is even more valuable than a University degree, particularly when considering the next generation of leaders.