How to get new leaders ready to lead at scale

October 19, 2023
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Organizations of all sizes, structures, and various industries are struggling with leadership succession, which, simply put, is having the leaders needed to sustain and grow a business. This leadership crisis is consistent across industries, and it’s something that we hear about frequently from our clients:

  • Companies don’t have the leaders they need to capitalize on the opportunities ahead of them.
  • Heads of talent are struggling to replace a generation of retiring leaders.
  • Current leaders aren’t prepared to take on the complexity of enterprise leadership in a global business environment.
  • Those promoted or hired into senior roles are failing at astonishing rates.

This is why it’s vital to develop leaders early on. With structure and focus, organizations can make tremendous progress toward accelerating enterprise or mid-level leaders and senior individual contributors’ readiness to scale their leadership abilities.

A difficult transition

The transition from high-performing mid-level leader can be especially challenging. Let’s consider the experience of a newly promoted employee we’ll call Sarah. Sarah offered stellar technical skills, was a hard worker, had built a wide network, and was well respected within the company. In the manner of many organizations, she was quickly promoted.

Although she was smart, talented, and experienced, Sarah was quickly overwhelmed by her new role. To correct things, she took on more projects, moved faster, and was soon spending her evenings and weekends working. Sarah couldn’t create a cohesive, productive team culture. Her peers tried to help by telling her that she needed to improve her “executive presence”—advice that, without full understanding, tends to be both superficial and confusing. It’s particularly detrimental to young female leaders of color. Sarah focused on her appearance, such as her hair and clothes. Yet, the real problem was that Sarah was doubling down on the things that made her successful as an individual contributor. With her promotion to function leader, expectations had changed.

What was important now?

To be a successful leader, Sarah needed to employ a new set of skills and qualities, including:

  • Seeing broader connections across the business.
  • Getting work done through others.
  • Making the best decisions under ambiguous conditions.
  • Owning the agenda and setting priorities.
  • Creating a culture that engages and inspires a diverse workforce.

She needed support in three areas:

  • Making systems decisions—exercising more decisiveness and taking on responsibility for decisions (which also required her to clarify decision rights with her boss).
  • Focusing the enterprise—setting the agenda and creating priorities (rather than asking for them from her boss) and getting work done through others instead of taking it on herself.
  • Influencing with impact—being more decisive and showing that she was empowered to make commitments and assert her point of view.

Employing the RHR model

RHR looks at leadership in three ways: leading business, leading people, and leading self. It’s a simple and powerful framework to help leaders consider their ability to grow, and our Readiness for ScaleSM model allowed us to organize Sarah’s assessment data (a mix of personality, decision style, and 360 feedback) to identify where she was excelling and where she was struggling. Then, we worked with Sarah to develop the specific readiness she needed for taking on a complex leadership role. Today, Sarah is a confident and successful leader because she received the assessment and coaching every new leader should have.

What does the data say?

Over the past five years, RHR has tracked leaders we’ve assessed and coached, and the results are amazing:

  • Those deemed ready to scale are often already leading at scale.
  • They are viewed by managers and others as highly scalable.
  • They have more LinkedIn connections and a larger network.
  • They are more likely to be promoted or otherwise advance their careers. 

How can your company achieve leader Readiness for ScaleSM?

With the global leadership crisis in full swing and the global business and political environment profoundly disrupted, it’s more important than ever to adequately prepare your next generation of leadership. To learn more about RHR’s Readiness for Scale leadership development model, contact our Director of Business Development, Robert Abramo, at to begin a conversation.

After nearly 80 years, RHR International remains a pioneer in leadership development and the premier boutique firm in this field. RHR leverages its insight, values, and depth of experience to work with business partners to build inclusive cultures and to dismantle organizational obstacles that prevent leaders at all levels from maximizing their potential. We welcome your interest and look forward to helping you develop your leadership strategy.

Dan Russell has more than 20 years of hands-on experience as a business consultant. He is exceptionally adept at identifying clients’ most pressing needs and creating value-enhancing, data-backed programs to help solve them.