7 MAY, 2019


If one or more of your senior leaders leave, is there someone in your organisation who can replace them? If so, can they do the job just as well? If not, you’ll need to develop employees who are in line for a leadership position to take on leadership roles so they can learn to be effective leaders. You can do this by building a leadership pipeline that follows the 70:20:10 model.

What is the 70:20:10 model?

The70:20:10 model is a workplace learning framework that’s used to make employees perform better. It’s also known as performance-oriented learning that happens on the job.

The 70:20:10 model supports three types of learning:

  • Experiential learning (70%) – Experiential learning is informal, on-the-job learning where employees learn and practise while doing their job.
  • Social learning (20%) – Social learning is about collaboration and support in the workplace in order to achieve the desired outcome. Employees can coach or mentor others as well as develop through other people.
  • Formal learning (10%) – Formal learning is traditional training and development at work where employees learn through formal courses.

The 70:20:10 model can help you build a leadership pipeline as it offers guidance without control, support without supervision, and pathways to enhance productivity. It can turn employees, especially managers and supervisors, into great leaders. In fact, organisations that use the 70:20:10 model see increased involvement of managers and supervisors in employee development, as they can help implement the model and act as coaches or mentors. Furthermore, incorporating theories of leadership such as Lewin’s leadership styles into hands-on learning experiences can greatly enhance the overall leadership development process.

Why are leadership pipelines important?

Building a leadership pipeline ensures that employees are ready to take on the role of a senior leader, like an executive of the company, should the position become available in the future. You can also use the leadership pipeline to identify candidates for succession. What’s more, developing employees into leaders will not only prepare them to do the job of someone at the top, it’ll also ensure the company’s long-term success.

6 ways to build leadership within teams using the 70:20:10 model
Experiential learning

1. Provide action-learning projects or stretch assignments

The best leaders learn, grow, and develop through experience. So provide structured action-learning projects or stretch assignments that allow employees to take on new challenges or experiment with different approaches while leading other people in order to learn, grow, and develop as leaders. In the end, employees can learn from reflecting on their experiences. They could ask themselves questions like “What did I do and what would I do differently?” or “What are my takeaways?” This is a great way to develop a leadership mindset.

These types of tasks can also make employees more comfortable and more prepared when it comes to taking up new challenges, experimenting or innovating, and leading others in the future, which is essential for a leader.

2. Assign senior management duties to employees

Another way you can use experience to fuel leadership development is to give employees the opportunity to do the tasks normally assigned to senior managers. This may include:

  • Planning and directing the work of a group of people.
  • Monitoring their work and taking corrective action when necessary.
  • Providing guidance to other managers and supervisors to direct reports.
  • Setting priorities and goals and making sure they’re met.
  • Managing investments and the financial budget.
  • Approving hiring and firing requests within their group.
  • Guiding the talent identification and development processes for a group.
  • Working with staff in other groups for strategy development and execution planning and to ensure collaboration for shared goals.
  • Communicating financial and goal results and key performance indicators to direct reports.

3. Invest in a professional development program

Make sure to invest in a professional development program that includes micro-credentials, as they offer informal, on-the-job learning. A leadership credential can help employees to adopt an adaptive mindset, drive strategic results, empower others, and lead and develop people.

You can also train employees to learn the skills required for important leadership positions in your organisation. For example, if you’re an IT organisation focused on driving innovation in developing new products and services, then train employees to develop or improve their innovation and creativity skills so that if a key leader leaves, someone who has the ability to do their work can replace them. On the other hand, you can prepare middle-level managers to become top-level managers so that when a top-level manager leaves, a middle-level manager can take their place.

Social learning

4. Let managers and supervisors be coaches, mentors or ambassadors for change

Managers and supervisors who become coaches or mentors will do a lot more than just managing or supervising their team and their work. Their duties will expand to include:

  • Instructing, training, and teaching their team members about anything work-related.
  • Giving their team professional advice on how to attain their goals.
  • Offering performance feedback in a positive, constructive way.

Additionally, coaches can support a solution-seeking mindset in response to challenges and embed a personal reflective culture, whereas mentors can provide inspiration and narratives that others can learn from and apply to new contexts.

When it comes to applying the 70:20:10 model in your organisation, you can also get managers and supervisors to act as ambassadors for change and hold them accountable for implementing the model. For instance, you could have a governance committee made up of senior managers and supervisors who advocate for the application of the model. They should be responsible for aligning the principal with the business’s strategy and championing the concept across all levels.

5. Work in diverse teams

Working in diverse teams can also help employees to learn, grow, and develop as leaders. Employees that collaborate with people who have different ways of thinking, behaving, and working can learn a lot from them and grow to be a better worker. It’s also important for employees to empathise with people who are different from them and be able to work with them, which are essential qualities of a leader.

Formal learning

6. Let employees undertake formal courses

Formal courses focused on leadership training can help employees develop the mindset and behaviour of a leader. These may include debating written scenarios via a discussion forum, role-playing in face-to-face workshops, working on case studies, or undergoing immersive virtual reality simulations. Case studies in particular explore real-life challenges and ask learners what they would do in that situation and how it relates to their own experience, which can help employees to think like a leader.

Ready to build your 70:20:10 leadership pipeline?

By building a leadership pipeline with the 70:20:10 model, you can ensure that there’s an adequate supply of leadership talent to meet your organisation’s demands over time when senior leaders leave and need to be replaced. Having a supply of strong leaders will also ensure the continued success of your organisation.

DeakinCo. offers learning and development solutions that enhance the performance of individuals and the organisations they work in. To find out more about how our services can enhance your skills,contact us for a discussion today.