Despite what the media says, there’s good news: companies don’t exist in the universe of The Highlander, where there can only be one. Indeed, multiple companies can not only flourish within an industry but collaborate and expand together within the marketplace. Pepsi and Coca-Cola have managed to figure out how to still sell completely optional beverages to the masses, and Wal-Mart and Target aren’t going to be trading pistols at dawn anytime soon. 

But let’s go back to examining internal processes because there is still a puzzle to solve. While companies seem to be able to compete externally, there are still internal issues to address. 

For example, how do we handle issues of succession? The top spot isn’t occupied by one leader forever. Sooner or later, the sweet siren song of retirement calls to all of us, or perhaps an irresistible offer at another company. 

Either way, not having strong succession models in place hurts a company and stifles opportunities for forward advancement. This is the case at the senior level as well as the mid and lower tiers of the organization. 

Fitting the Pieces Together

In programming parlance, there is much to be said about the concept of garbage in, garbage out. If we aren’t mindful about selection, building a pipeline becomes much more difficult. If we aren’t looking at how to use assessments appropriately, the pipeline becomes a pipe dream. If we aren’t careful to think and rethink what great talent means, then the pipeline doesn’t really exist in any other capacity than a wishlist item. 

It’s something nice to have, but it isn’t an actionable item. Thankfully, it can be as long as we go back to the fundamentals. The greater framework is laid out in great detail in Chapter 10 of Developing World Class Leaders, but here are some highlights to consider. 

Mindful Selection

How we approach the selection process ultimately impacts the entire pipeline process. You can’t get quality out if there’s no quality going in. That can make hiring difficult, especially as companies are competing in the same waters for talent. 

Getting good at selection isn’t an overnight process. Hiring is difficult, which is why leadership has to remain consistent across functions and teams, like HR and management. 

Ascended Assessments

The chapter in Developing World Class Leaders on assessments is well worth your time to read again, and again, and again. Why? Because qualified, targeted assessments are a strong part of the performance to pipeline process. We want to build a pipeline from the beginning that is talented, and then we want to refine that talent over time through coaching, mentorship, and refinement processes. 

Realistic Succession Planning

Who will replace the king? Thankfully, we exist in a diverse business environment where leaders come from a blessedly diverse group. But the question remains: is there a strong succession plan when the current leadership decides to retire or pursue other opportunities? 

We have to be realistic from every angle: we cannot expect people to stay forever, and we also have to avoid waiting for a perfect “unicorn” to fill the position. 

Find the Fundamentals – Especially if It’s Been a While

Going back to basics isn’t the default setting of today’s leadership. Indeed, we’re always seeking what’s innovative, what’s cutting edge, what’s shiny, and what’s new. Yet there’s a reason why mastering phonics continues to unlock reading to a whole new generation of young readers: it is the fundamentals of our language, and it works. 

Bruce Lee said it best: I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.  

To truly develop world-class leaders, we have to embrace the art of practicing the specifics over and over again, fighting the urge to try on a slew of new things. 

It’s a delicate balancing act because it is also quite possible to fall into a stagnant loop that keeps a business in limbo. Blockbuster had the opportunity to cut Netflix off before the company became a powerhouse but decided not to take the right steps. 


You have the choice to choose better, to go back to the fundamentals, and to fit the pieces together in a way that makes sense for your organization. 

That’s the mission: to embrace leadership development as part of the organization, not a convenient condiment for the moment. 

What can you do if you truly went through your company’s performance to pipeline puzzle? 

Plunge Into the Pipeline Puzzle With Developing World-Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development

In the middle of wrangling your own business talent pipeline and succession plan?  Don’t go it alone; it’s covered in Developing World Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development.

Did you miss the deep dive on assessments? Check out the Strategic View of Hiring podcast episode, Exploring the World of Assessments.

 Check out the book store and order a copy of Developing World Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development today.

 To receive a copy of our Leadership Competency Inventory, complete with 64 competencies, just send an email.