21 Tools to Coach Future Leaders

Article submitted by Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D., International Leadership Guru

“A true Master is not the one with the most students,

but one who creates the most Masters.

A true leader is not the one with the most followers,

but one who creates the most leaders.”

—Neale Donald Walsch

The findings of Kelly Global Workforce Index which obtained the views of approximately 97,000 people in 30 countries including almost 2000 in India reveals as follows: “A majority of 58 percent in India said that their bosses have done a good job in preparing them for future success. While 29 percent said they have not been well-prepared, the remaining 14 percent said they were largely uncertain.”

Presently organizations are taking more interest in providing leadership development programs to their employees as there is a dire need for building new leaders due to the retirement of Baby Boomers. When Baby boomers retire there will be a shortage of senior leaders and CEOs within the organizations. In addition, the duration of a CEO tenure is decreasing which is a major challenge for organizations. Hence, organizations are taking keen interest to coach future leaders to enhance their excellence and effectiveness and to keep their leadership pipeline seamlessly flowing with talent.

Before companies intend to build their future leaders they must identify the right talent first so that they can bank on them to meet their future needs. They must effectively engage Human Resources (HR) that deals with the people from recruitment to retirement and follows the cliché hire for attitude and train for skills. Hence, recruit the talent that is good at the attitude to train and groom with requisite skills and abilities with a long-term perspective.

Spot the Right Talent

Benjamin Disraeli remarked, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him, his own.” Here are the ways to spot the right talent for building future leaders:

  • There are huge costs involved in providing leadership training programs for employees. Hence, it is desirable to spot the right material to make wise investments in training them. If companies invest in the wrong talent there will be a drain in resources. Hence, companies must look at the right candidates during recruitment itself who are willing to learn and grow with a positive, right and strong attitude.
  • Find out the X factor among the talent. The x factor is something people have it within themselves. It is a kind of fire and passion people have it and such people can contribute their best and grow quickly in their careers.
  • Find out candidates’ previous history whether they contributed in teams and made any difference to their organizations. At times past contribution is a barometer for future performance. Find out what unique strengths, skills, abilities, and knowledge they possess to keep them in the pipeline for future leadership training programs.
  • Check their previous performance if they are already working. Identifying their engagement to the organization and contribution through various feedbacks including 90 degrees, 180 degrees, and 360-degree feedback can help the companies greatly in deciding whether to invest in their training.
  • Spot the leadership spark and identify their inclination to leadership roles and responsibilities. Are they willing to risk and explore? Do they follow the road less traveled? Are they trendsetters? Can they accept both bouquets and brickbats equally? Do they have the heart to make a difference in the lives of others? When companies are convinced that the potential candidates have all these ingredients then the former can invest their resources on the latter with a long-term perspective.

21 Tools to Coach Future Leaders

After spotting the right talent the companies must provide leadership development programs and coach the candidates constantly to enhance productivity and performance and also keep such precious talent on the leadership pipeline with a long view. Here are the 21 tools to coach future leaders:

  1. Set a Broad Vision. Winston Churchill once said, “If you are doing big things, you attract big men. If you are doing the little things, you attract little men. Little men usually cause trouble.” Broad vision helps come out of the comfort zone constantly thus getting the best out of the talent. It helps them set short-term, long-term and life-long goals. It helps align these three set of goals regularly and enhances focus thus providing meaning to their personal, professional and social lives.
  2. Follow the Road Less Traveled. If you do routine things you get routine results whereas if you do unique things you get unique outcomes. In this cut-throat competitive world, it is advisable to follow the road less traveled to stand out. Otherwise, people get into the rat race and remain insignificant. When you look at Steve Jobs he was an amazing example who branded himself as an innovation guru by following the road less traveled.
  3. Build a Global Mindset. The globe has become a small village due to the rapid growth in technology. It is well connected and we can know everything at the click of a mouse. It is essential to develop a broad mindset by understanding various cultures by looking at similarities and ignoring differences.
  4. Manage Time. God gifted all of us with 24 hours and we must know how to manage it effectively by prioritizing and following it meticulously. Enlighten employees with Pareto’s Principle of 80: 20 and train them to make use of their time on productive activities by identifying and eliminating the time wasters. Research shows that people waste 30 percent of their time by thinking about the past. Hence, avoid thinking about the unpleasant past that cannot be changed, stop worrying about the future that cannot be predicted and engage your mind focusing on the present that you have at your disposal.
  5. Delegate the Routine Tasks. The superiors must delegate their routine tasks to their subordinates so that they can save their time and gradually engage their subordinates to take on more responsibilities. It infuses confidence among the subordinates and builds leadership abilities and skills.
  6. Encourage Risk-Taking. Risk is an integral element of leadership. It is an inherent element in everyday life. A ship is safe when it is in the harbor but it is not meant for that. God gifted us life to explore and experiment. Hence, we must learn to take the risk and explore to make it big. Remember, not to take a risk is also a risk.
  7. Empower Them. When superiors empower their subordinates the latter come out of their comfort zones; overcome their apprehensions and explore various avenues to lead from the front. They will be able to make decisions, and experiment thus building their competencies and capabilities. Sometimes subordinates may surprise their superiors by coming out with innovative ideas and outcomes thus adding value to organizations.
  8. Provide Feedback Constantly. Ken Blanchard rightly said that feedback is the breakfast of champions. When superiors provide feedback to their subordinates regularly the latter can identify their strong and weak areas thus overcoming their weaknesses gradually and growing as leaders rapidly. While giving feedback make sure that it is behavior-centric, not individual-centric. Provide sandwich feedback preferably. Sandwich feedback starts with a positive compliment; ends with positive praise; and embeds the negative comments that are aimed at bringing out the desired behavioral improvement.
  9. Write a Failure Resume. It sounds strange right! A failure resume helps budding leaders minimize their mistakes and maximize leadership effectiveness. They must list out their past failures in one column, how they failed in the second column and why they failed in the third column. It helps them find out the reasons for failures whether the failures encountered due to their own mistakes or external environment. If they failed due to their mistakes they must learn lessons and avoid making such mistakes in the future. It provides protection for the future thus enhancing their leadership effectiveness.
  10. Enhance EQ. Emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) is gaining importance as it is the major ingredient of leadership. It can be acquired through teaching and training programs and developed through practice. EQ can be defined as a five-fold process of identifying your own emotions, managing your own emotions, identifying the emotions of the individuals around you, managing their emotions and motivating them to lead from the front. Hence, coaches and trainers must emphasize and equip EQ among future leaders.
  11. Encourage Job Rotation. When superiors put their subordinates in various jobs they build cross-functional skills and empathize with others by understanding the ground realities. In addition, they will be able to guide others as they learn to handle various tasks in various jobs. Job rotation is indeed a leadership developmental tool as it acquaints employees with various leadership roles and responsibilities and equips them with several skills and abilities thus developing conceptual skills which are needed for leaders at all levels.
  12. Hone Conceptual Skills. There are three skills needed for leaders at all levels such as technical, human, and conceptual skills. The levels are entry, middle, and senior level. As you scale to senior leadership positions like CEO you need to possess more of conceptual skills and less of technical skills while the need for human skills remains the same. We can call technical skills hard skills, and human skills soft skills. Hence, there is more need for conceptual skills and less need for hard skills while the need for soft skills remains intact at each leadership level.
  13. Engage in Passionate Senior Leaders. Fred A. Manske, Jr. said, “The ultimate leader is not afraid to develop people to the point they surpass him or her in knowledge and ability.” Jack Welch conducted leadership training programs to train and groom the budding leaders in GE. It helped him grasp the challenges at the ground level and also inspired budding talent to understand the challenges at a higher level. In addition, it encouraged the talent to dream and achieve big like Jack Welch.
  14. Build Level 5 Leaders. It is a fact that leaders build leaders and we need Level 5 Leaders to build future leaders. Jim Collins highlighted Level 5 Leaders in his book, Good to Great. The Level 5 Leaders are a paradoxical blend of both personal humility and professional will. They are passionate leaders who don’t mind when others take credit for their contribution. They want to make a difference in the lives of others. Hence, spotting senior leaders who are Level 5 Leaders and deploying them to build future Level 5 Leaders helps greatly to organizations.
  15. Create Collaborative Rather than Competitive Attitude. In the current global business environment, it is essential to compete and collaborate as per the situation. People often have the attitude to compete which is human nature. But those who want to excel as leaders must develop a collaborative attitude to get the best for them and their organizations. Above all, collaboration helps in eliminating ill-will among the members and leveraging their strengths.
  16. Inculcate Business Acumen. Most of the talent often comes with technical acumen learning either from the educational institutions or at the workplace. They must also learn about business acumen which is more important to excel as leaders. It mostly comes with experience and by undertaking challenging roles and responsibilities.
  17. Embrace Change. The only thing constant in this world is ‘change’. Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Hence, develop a flexible mindset to change and equip them with necessary change management tools to embrace, manage and effect change successfully.
  18. Manage Uncertainty and Complexity. The world has become highly complex with technology and the advent of social media. It is not clear where it will take us further as it is tough to predict the future. Hence, teach talent to thrive on uncertainty and complexity. In addition, the aspirations and expectations of the people are rising rapidly and to meet them is a Herculean task indeed. Hence, prepare the talent accordingly.
  19. Learn from Failures. The Poet, Archibald MacLeish quoted, “There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience.” Read good books and learn from their experiences to avoid mistakes and enhance your leadership effectiveness. It is rightly said that a wise person learns from the mistakes of others whereas the foolish person learns from own experience. Hence, be a wise person by learning from the failures of others to enhance your leadership effectiveness and success.
  20. Enlighten that Leadership is not a Popularity Contest. It is not easy to please all. The path to leadership is not a cakewalk. It requires blending IQ with EQ; taking bouquets and brickbats equally; spreading the fame during successes and taking the blame during failures; and above all, being competitive and collaborative as per the situation.
  21. Remember What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There. Marshall Goldsmith in his book, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There—How Successful People, Become Even More Successful! reveals that you need to learn continuously, take feedback regularly, and identify the barriers to reach your next higher level. What worked you to reach this position might not work to reach your next higher position as the times and technologies, and tools and techniques are changing rapidly. Hence, learn continuously, and acquire new tools and techniques constantly to update, innovate and excel as a great leader.


Recession is an opportunity for the organizations to train and groom the talent because during the upturn they don’t find time to concentrate on leadership development programs as they are busy with improving the bottom lines and adding value to customers and clients. Hence, organizations must treat recession as an opportunity rather than a threat to retain the talent and train them for future needs.

Encourage coaching and avoid poaching. It is better to coach and groom the leaders ready rather than to poach when needed. Poaching resolves problems temporarily but coaching resolves problems permanently and enhances employee engagement and ensures employee loyalty. An engaged employee is always an asset to any organization. To conclude, follow these 21 tools to coach future leaders to enable the organizations to survive and thrive during downturn and uptown. Remember the sage words of Walter Lippman, “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind in other people the convictions and will to carry on.”



Author Bio

Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with 38 years of experience and the author of over 45 books including the award-winning ‘21 Success Sutras for CEOs’ URL: http://www.amazon.com/21-Success-Sutras-Ceos-Rao/dp/162865290X. He is a C-Suite advisor and a sought-after keynote speaker globally. He brings a strategic eye and long-range vision given his multifaceted professional experience including military, teaching, training, research, consultancy, and philosophy. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. He trains a new generation of leaders through leadership education and publications. His vision is to build one million students as global leaders by 2030 URL: http://professormsraovision2030.blogspot.in/2014/12/professor-m-s-raos-vision-2030-one_31.html. He advocates gender equality globally (#HeForShe). He was honored as an upcoming International Leadership Guru by Global Gurus URL: https://globalgurus.org/upcoming-leadership-gurus/. He coined an innovative teaching tool―Meka’s Method; leadership training tool―11E Leadership Grid; and leadership learning tool―Soft Leadership Grid. He invests his time in authoring books and blogging on executive education, learning and leadership. Most of his work is available free of charge on his four blogs including http://professormsraovision2030.blogspot.com. He is a prolific author and a dynamic, energetic and inspirational leadership speaker. He can be reached at msrlctrg@gmail.com.

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