3 Risks of Not Developing New Leaders

What happens when a leader is left to fend for himself without training, guidance, or support? Sometimes, it works out, but there are risks. Take Stan, for example.

Stan had worked at the local manufacturing plant for eight years, moving up to team lead, then production supervisor, and most recently, manager of manufacturing plant production. He enjoyed his work and was excited about the latest promotion.

Rapid Changes Bring New Challenges

That is, until a recent acquisition. As a result of the acquisition, the company underwent a substantial reorganization. In turn, Stan’s boss and mentor of many years, Ted, took early retirement. Stan’s new boss, Bill, came from the acquired company. Bill was quick to state his belief in the “sink or swim” school of leadership development.

This latest development gave Stan pause about his new responsibilities. He was respected and well-liked on the plant floor. Still, Stan felt overwhelmed by some of the decisions required by his new role. Occasionally, he struggled with holding people accountable, in part because he had so many friends in the company. It was challenging for Stan to address conflicts among team members. He secretly hoped people would resolve differences on their own.

Stan’s previous boss, Ted, had been mentoring Stan in these areas. He was helping Stan build strategic thinking skills and improve his business acumen. Ted was unlikely to stay involved as he was moving on to a different industry.

Also, the acquisition was a strategic move to help the company launch several new products in the coming months. Stan was excited about the latest products. At the same time, he worried his team wouldn’t hit their aggressive new goals. Stan had a reputation for running a high-performing team. Over the years, he had built an excellent record of productivity and quality. But the latest production demands seemed impossible.

His new boss, Bill, was rarely available to discuss issues. Additional problems were cropping up with production scheduling and discipline issues. Stan attempted to set up a weekly one-to-one meeting with Bill to report on progress and ask for guidance on top priorities. Bill had canceled at the last minute three weeks in a row.

What’s at Risk in This Scenario?
    1. The high-performance culture is eroding. The culture that existed in Stan’s original company was one where highly productive teams were the norm.


    1. Employee engagement is not a priority. Results are already starting to slip due to the new leadership style of “sink or swim.” The latest product launch is at risk of failure if leadership fails to take action.


  1. Change management skills aren’t valued. New leadership (not just Stan) is unprepared to navigate a rapidly changing environment.

The differences in the cultures of the two companies have resulted in some unintended consequences. For example, long-held values and standards have quickly eroded. Meanwhile, Stan has work to do as a developing leader. He needs to boost his ability to hold his team accountable and face conflict with courage and objectivity. Without his mentor, Stan will need to identify internal and external resources to boost his business acumen.  He needs to develop the leadership skills to navigate his company’s current challenges.

What Are the Best Solutions?

Stan could align with a talented company leader to continue his development through mentoring. However, he needs to be careful not to risk insubordination. Stan will need to carefully navigate the politics of finding an internal champion without undermining his boss. He can consider investing in training or leadership development coaching (on his own). The combination of these resources could make all the difference.