Developing a system to identify and train next-generation leaders

Written by Jonathan Ross
15 Sep 2023

Why your leadership team is so important.

As agencies grow, they need to navigate various inflection points. With each inflection point, the leader’s role should increasingly change from driving agency growth activity to supporting it. This means that a leader becomes more reliant on a growing second-tier leadership team for ongoing agency success.

Therefore, developing a system to identify and train next-generation leaders is vital to the long-term sustainability and consistent success of every agency.

What it takes to develop an ongoing leadership pipeline.

There are four components which agency leaders must understand and actively support:

  • Agency inflection points and their consequences.
  • The talent and timing of the hires needed for sustained growth.
  • Recruiting and/or developing the required talent.
  • Retaining talent.

In a previous post (Why your leadership team are so important) I discussed inflection points. In this post I am covering senior talent that drives growth and will outline the skills required for leading different core functions within the agency. The other two components will be the subjects of future posts.


Function 1/Client Service Talent – The key characteristics.

These men and women have proven their ability to manage a significant book of business and a large service team. They know how to manage complex client relationships and organically grow accounts.

They provide high quality and insightful strategic input to their clients, drive leads to the agency and help to convert those leads into new business wins.

Function 2/Business Development Talent – Knowing how to win and then keep winning.

The most successful new business executives know how to design and manage the agency’s execution of an excellent sales process.

They’re also highly effective in designing and overseeing the execution of the agency-wide marketing plan to build the reputations of the firm, specific specialties, and the senior team.

Finally, they ensure that all new business materials are always current and highly impactful.

With each inflection point, the leader’s role should increasingly change from driving agency growth activity to supporting it.

Function 3/Talent Leader Development – The leadership skills required to attract and develop the talent you’ll need to grow your agency.

Your Talent Leader will know how to make the best impression possible for the firm in order to compete for and recruit the most talented people.

Proven expertise in upward mobility (equality and fairness, onboarding, training, the career planning, and promotion process… and more) should also be part of the required skill set.

Function 4/Operations Talent – What it takes to keep the agency running like clockwork.

Agency owners need a senior person with strong financial, legal, and operational skills to keep the agency moving forward smoothly and profitably while minimising the inevitable bumps on the road.

This person must also have the experience and mind-set to 1) be a useful and trusted advisor to ownership, providing an objective ear and agenda-free advice and 2) also be a collaborative partner to the client service leaders.

Function 5/Specialty Leader Talent – Keeping your agency ahead of the pack.

The first requirement here is having the ability and experience to establish or grow a strong specialty presence in the first place. This person will know how to develop the right products, thought leadership and capabilities… and then persuasively communicate them to current and prospective clients.

The Specialty Leader will be a great presenter who knows how to sell and also knows how to teach (including training agency staff on specialty capabilities and making senior leaders confident about conducting initial conversations with prospects).

Summing it all up.

As your agency grows, you will need to rely upon your senior leadership more than ever. In fact, adding top senior talent may be a prerequisite to achieving substantial growth.

Fallow Associates has deep experience in helping agencies build the infrastructure required for identifying, recruiting, developing, and retaining senior leadership teams. Please contact us at any time.