Do we honestly think executives even care about their leader pipelines?

Ted Bauer
5 min readAug 11, 2022

Here’s a funny story that probably won’t be that funny to you: back in summer 2013, when I worked at McKesson on a business school internship, I got to sit in a couple of “leadership pipeline” meetings. These were meetings for the top dogs, essentially, to look at who they have in the pipeline that maybe could become “a strategic leader” or some such down the road. McKesson makes billions of dollars every year, so you’d assume this was a formalized, specific, research-driven process, right? No. It was a clusterf*ck on wheels headed towards an oil refinery with a book of matches. And because the meeting was about a fluffy topic like “leaders of tomorrow” and not about financial deliverables, no one really wanted to be there.

You hear all the time about studies where companies are “concerned” about their leadership pipeline. Eventually, new people become leaders — brought in from outside, a lot of the time — and the company keeps making money. So maybe it’s not really that big of an issue. But it seems like more people should honestly care, right? Hell, at least it does to me.

Final thing about that McKesson gig and those meetings before we get into this: at the meetings, you’d always hear the same 2–3 names; they were typically the lieutenants of the current leadership. There’s an awkward political tango there, though. “Well, Steve is ready to be promoted, but I kinda like him running point for me right now because it’s making me look better, so let’s just keep him where he is for a bit…” Steve just got screwed by being good at his current job, which is supposedly the quality that’s supposed to get you rewarded. Oh, well!

See that “consultant” tag down below, eh?

Check out these fancy stats:

The ability to develop leadership programs for millennials is cited as an area of weakness by 60% of HR and business leaders worldwide across all industries, according to a study of 3,300 business and HR leaders from 106 countries.

60 percent? Honestly surprised it’s not higher. Now check this:

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Ted Bauer

Mostly write about work, leadership, friendship, masculinity, male infertility, and some other stuff along the way. It's a pleasure to be here.