Developing Future Leaders

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Developing Future Leaders

By Terry McKenna, Convenience Store Coaches - 09/02/2014

If you plan to grow your store count, you need a team of leaders to do so. As the owner, you simply can’t do it yourself. You can certainly try. Many owners have –- and failed. In the end, it boils down to simple math: There are only 24 hours in a day, and there’s only one of you.

What if a great opportunity presented itself to acquire multiple stores? Do you today have the leadership capacity to pursue that opportunity? Sadly, I’ve witnessed many companies have to pass on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow their store count because they didn’t have the team in place to take on additional stores. And therein lays a dilemma: managing the business today while planning and preparing for the future.

Scale has always been important, but even more so today. Small operators are finding it increasingly difficult to compete against the larger, resource-rich and better-financed chains. The larger chains have greater buying power, stronger supply positions and can spread their costs across a larger infrastructure. But a big loose brick in the larger chains' fortress is a poor leadership pipeline.

I’ve written in the past that smaller operators, in order to compete with the larger chains, must become more nimble, faster and look for the loose bricks in which to attack. Competing by the market leader's rules is competitive suicide. To win, you have to change the rules of engagement.


Companies are not properly developing their pipeline of future leaders. Few executives think their companies are doing a good job identifying and developing qualified leaders. Only 22 percent of the 823 leaders who participated in a recent executive panel interview consider their pipelines promising, and only 19 percent said they find it easy to attract the best talent. 

What’s going to happen in the next five or 10 years as people retire or move on? Where will the next generation of leaders come from? If the current leaders in your company don’t have the potential to learn, grow and adapt to new environments, how can they attract up-and-coming employees and managers who do?

When assessing the talent that works for you, consider potential to be the most important predictor of success at all levels. Performance and potential are not the same. You can have an employee who is great at their job (performance), but limited in their potential to perform at a higher level. Don’t confuse performance with potential.


As you look into the talent pool within your company, here are five qualities to look for. These qualities are more important today than in years past, because of how much the industry and the world around us has changed. 

1. Motivation: A fierce commitment to excel in the pursuit of unselfish goals. People with high potential have great ambition and want to leave their mark, but they also aspire to a big, collective goal. 

2. Curiosity: A penchant for seeking out a different way to do things; an openness to learning and change. Curious people use phrases like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?"

3. Insight: The ability to gather and make sense of information that suggests new possibilities.

4. Engagement: The ability to use emotion and logic to communicate the company vision, and connect and rally the troops around it. 

5. Determination: The disciple and tenacity to fight for difficult goals despite challenges, and to bounce back from adversity. 


When interviewing potential leaders, always ask for concrete examples to these questions

  • How do you react when someone challenges you? 
  • How do you foster learning among the people you lead?
  • How do you invite input from others on your team?
  • What steps do you take to seek out the unknown?
  • What do you do to broaden your thinking, experience and personal development?

When it's all said and done, the team with the best players who play as a team wins.