Preparing the next generation: A leadership manifesto

May is the month of new beginnings. Just ask any recent graduate with a freshly minted diploma clasped tightly in hand.

They’ve slogged through the salt mines of advanced programming, navigated the carbon bonds of organic chemistry and agonized through weeklong problem sets in engineering. They’ve labored to understand the relevance of Cicero’s speeches to modern political rhetoric, and poured through thousands of pages of literature in search of an insight from Shakespeare or Thoreau that they could apply to the world they will inherit. And they are now at last, free — launched out into the exciting and very scary world of becoming contributing members of a society that is both characterized by its many flaws and heralded for its fine points.

In the course of pursuing a degree, however, these future leaders have spent much of their education learning about other people, other places and other things. The journey to truly understanding the legacy that they will compose and leave to others some 40 years from now is just getting underway. This is why it’s so essential that those of us currently in leadership positions take responsibility for shepherding this next generation down a path where they can achieve their own greatness.

The platform we’ve built for them to walk on is comprised of the sturdy planks of the good decisions we’ve made, and weakened by the weathered wood of our own shortsightedness, but it’s all we have to give them. They will have the unenviable task of sorting through what we’ve created and retaining what works well, while courageously discarding what won’t serve the future that they see unfolding ahead.

As a leader, there are many actions you can take to welcome this budding generation into the workforce, but doing so starts with your commitment to establishing a process that develops young talent well. Beyond process, your ongoing personal involvement is key, as it encourages everyone in the organization to place the same level of importance on growing talent as you do. This is work that is just as essential as your boardroom discussions and analyst briefings, because it’s work that ensures your organization will thrive into the future.

Defining a “Leadership Manifesto for Talent Development” might be a way to clearly highlight what new hires can expect to experience when they join your company, while establishing your expectations of existing leaders, managers and employees. Here is an example that will make the new graduates you seek flock to be part of your organization:

At our company

  • Developing young talent is a foundational aspect of our culture. We welcome individuals with new ideas and new questions who come to our organization hungry to learn, teach and contribute.
  • We do not look at the incoming generation as one that needs to be “fixed” or coerced into believing that our current ways are best. We invite you to thoughtfully challenge our old habits and help us to consider new approaches for delivering great results.
  • Your success is as important to us as it is to you. We will pair you with mentors and coaches who are deeply devoted to helping you navigate the early years of your career, so that where you want to contribute and what you want to learn becomes evident.
  • We understand that yours is a generation in search of a passion, and we applaud your determination to find it. Our commitment is to provide tools and training that can help you discover your passions and apply them to your work, because we are certain that passion is our most powerful competitive advantage.
  • People at every level will support your development and respect your journey, from the receptionist who greets you on the first day of work to the CEO who stops to chat with you in the lunch line. You’re invited to develop relationships broadly and deeply within the organization. Insights can be discovered everywhere.
  • Although it may be tempting to cut budgets in financially challenging times, we will maintain healthy funding for talent development. We recognize that our success in the next decade depends upon the investment being made in your growth today.
  • While you’ll be given many opportunities to be successful, we recognize that development also comes through failure. We invite you to learn from both, and embrace your mistakes, rather than fear them.
  • The gift of personal and professional development comes with a responsibility for those who follow you. When it is your turn to mentor or coach another, accept the honor of that role by giving of yourself in equal measure to those who have given to you.

There are incredibly capable new graduates, full of energy and promise, just waiting for the chance to make a difference. They are coming to the workforce confident, goal-oriented and anxious to make their mark, in today’s jobs and ones that they will invent. Is your organization is ready for them?

Alaina Love is chief operating officer and president of Purpose Linked Consulting and co-author of “The Purpose Linked Organization: How Passionate Leaders Inspire Winning Teams and Great Results” (McGraw-Hill). She is a recovering HR executive, a global speaker and leadership expert, and passionate about everything having to do with, well … passion. Her passion archetypes are Builder, Transformer and Healer. You can learn more about how to grow leaders, build passionate teams and leverage passion to create great customer outcomes here.

When she’s not working with her Fortune 500 client base, Love is busy writing her next book, “Passionality, The Art and Science of Finding Your Passion and Living Your Bliss,” which explores the alignment of personality, purpose and passion, and the science of how it contributes to our well being. Follow Love on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or her blog.

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