How To Build The Leadership Powered Company
21 November 2022
The Leadership Pipeline
Insights From 'The Leadership Pipeline' by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter And James Noel
What does a relatively raw recruit, someone who’s just stepped on the first rung of the corporate ladder, have to do with leadership?
Very little, you’d think.
After all, the only leading and managing, such people would have done thus far is of themselves.
But that is the level at which the Leadership Pipeline – and its work of developing leaders -- should start, says Charan.
Not at the top.
The Leadership Pipeline is a model based on how work flows in most organizations, from the junior-most executives all the way to the CEO.
Charan and his co-authors point out that the path to the top isn’t a straight one – there are multiple bends and turns along the way.
As people transition from each stage of management to the next higher one, the nature of their role increases in complexity and scope.
At each stage, the skills and values needed to do well change drastically too.
Successful organizations use the framework of the Pipeline to help their people negotiate these twists in the best possible way.
They work with their managers – leaders at their level - to develop their skills and manage their time to be able to perform their new roles well.
And get ready for the next level.
The pipeline framework was initially conceptualized by HR consultant Walter Mahler in the 1970s.
In 2000, Charan and his co-authors developed this further based on their over three decades of experience in the field of HR and leadership development.
Charan’s Leadership Pipeline has six major twists, each standing for a significant career development.
Passage 1: From Managing Self to Managing Others.
This is the first rung on the management ladder, where you become responsible for the work of others as well as your own work.
Passage 2: From Managing Others to Managing Managers.
Now, you stop doing your technical or professional work and focus on the management aspect only.
Your responsibilities cover selecting and guiding first-line managers.
Passage 3: From Managing Managers to Functional Manager.
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This big promotion makes you part of the business team, with complete charge of a function manufacturing, marketing etc.
Strategic thinking – how your function contributes to the business – becomes critical.
Passage 4: From Functional Manager to Business Manager.
At this stage, your focus switches from the product to profit, as you assume charge for the entire business and its various functions, rather than just part of it.
Passage 5: From Business Manager to Group Manager.
The group manager assumes charge of the various businesses under the organization, taking charge of investing in and divesting parts of the portfolio.
They also spend a significant amount of time supporting the CEO.
Passage 6: From Group Manager to Enterprise Manager.
This is the CEO, the face of the organization.
The buck stops here.
While the pipeline follows the natural hierarchy of work, each turn in the pipeline stands for a different level of complexity of leadership.
And the requirements for doing well change at every passage.
Companies that work on keeping their pipelines filled and flowing at all times will have a steady supply of well-developed competent managers at every stage of functioning.
They won't need to look outside to fill critical vacancies.
And within the organization, they’ll have people performing to the highest standards, knowing exactly what’s required of them and what they need to get the job done.