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leadership lab

This column is part of Globe Careers' new Leadership Lab series, where executives and leadership experts share their views and advice about the leadership and management issues of today. There will be a new column every weekday. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

Somewhere in your organization is likely a future chief executive officer or senior executive who will be called upon to take your company, division or department to the next level.

I believe today's leaders have a role and a responsibility to provide an environment that will groom future leaders and enable them to achieve their maximum potential. The long-term success of any organization depends on this.

But are we doing enough to help up-and-coming leaders become great leaders?

In today's increasingly demanding and ever-changing environment, it's becoming more difficult for leaders to spend the necessary time with their people to help them learn, develop and improve their skills.

However, those who do make the time can have an important and potentially career-defining impact on those they lead every day.

When I look back on my own career, I'm reminded of those who were committed to my success and who helped shape my development as a leader. They built upon my own personal ambition and drive for self-development, constantly reminding me that learning and development requires an open mind, conscious attention, regular reflection and action.

The development of leaders is influenced by many factors, situations and people along the way. So what can the leaders of today do to have a positive impact and enhance the learning process? While not always easy, here are three principles that I've applied over the years:

1. Manage performance

Many organizations thoroughly track results against specific and measurable objectives with great precision. Yet, when it comes to employee development, things generally become a little less precise and, frankly, get less attention. They know the results they want their employees to achieve, however, they aren't always as adept, or as focused, at discussing how those results were delivered.

At Aimia, we focus our performance discussions across both dimensions – what results we want and how we get them – with equal importance. When it comes to how, discussions centre on those leadership attributes most critical to delivering objectives while best positioning the company to deliver performance that is sustainable. Examples include strategic thinking, analysis and decision-making, having a customer-centric orientation and building talent.

Not only does this create clear expectations, it signals to up-and-coming leaders what is expected when it comes to how they conduct themselves and where they need to focus their own development. As a result, individuals see that how they achieve objectives and deliver results is of critical importance to their career progression.

2. Lead with action, not just words

"Leadership is a privilege bestowed upon you by people who believe in you." This is a quote that I'm always drawn back to when I reflect on my own leadership.

The reality is that people are going to look to you to see how you lead. Ultimately, you have to be a role model for the behaviour that you're looking for as a leader.

When you walk your talk, you are authentic and demonstrate that the core values you espouse are actually words that you live by. When you compromise your core values and act inconsistently with those attributes you ask others to develop, your credibility as a leader is undermined as is your ability to have people believe in and follow you.

3. Encourage innovation, nimbleness and risk-taking

Businesses thrive when they are able to innovate, be nimble and adapt. Luckily, great leaders don't wait for others to set a course for the future. They set an ambitious course for themselves, take risks and learn from mistakes made along the way.

By fostering a responsible risk-taking environment in your own organization, you can create a culture of innovation, as well as let future leaders know it's okay to take a chance – that failure isn't fatal to the business, or to their careers. As a result, they learn to become more comfortable assessing risk and taking appropriate action for the good of the business.

Related to this is the notion of being comfortable with ambiguity. We won't always have all the answers that we're looking for. We need to reinforce that it's acceptable to sometimes have answers that are only "roughly right" to act. In today's environment, being nimble and able to move with speed is important and the opportunity is sometimes lost when you spend too much time trying to get to an answer that is just perfect.

Based on my experience, fostering these principles can contribute to an environment that allows the next generation of leaders to grow, flourish and be discovered.

The onus is on the leaders of today to make this a priority.

Vince Timpano is the president and chief executive officer in Canada of Aimia Inc. (@AimiaInc), a global leader in loyalty management, with unique capabilities in delivering proprietary loyalty services, launching and managing coalition loyalty programs such as Aeroplan, creating value through loyalty analytics and driving innovation in the emerging digital and mobile spaces.