Developing Future Managers: How to Prepare the Next Generation

15th February 2024

Aviation and aerospace are industries where specific knowledge, skills and experience are necessary not only for success, but also for safety. In certain roles, bringing in employees from outside of the industry to take on managerial roles can carry risks because of this, which is why developing managers within organisations is a priority for many businesses in these sectors.

Internal promotion and recruitment can be one of the best approaches to a leadership development strategy. If you’ve got employees in your aviation business who are showing potential to be great managers, you should have a process in place to help them develop these skills and then stay with your company to use them.

Finding talented aerospace and aviation candidates can be difficult, especially in today’s recruitment market. So not only is an internal leadership development plan crucial for retaining talent, but it can also reduce your recruitment costs and help avoid situations where a role gets filled by an available candidate instead of the most qualified one.

In this article, we discuss how to identify future managers in your company, explain the best techniques for developing the leaders of the future, and share our advice for establishing a system that trains and retains managers in your organisation.

How to Identify a Future Manager

A necessary part of being able to develop the future managers in your aviation business is knowing how to identify them so you can deliver the appropriate training and support. Here are some of the key qualities and behaviours you should look out for.


The best managers and leaders will motivate themselves and the teams that they work with without needing direction from the higher-ups. They’ll take initiative and have an internal drive to develop and succeed which constantly pushes them towards making improvements and encouraging others to do the same.

You can identify self-motivated employees by seeking out those who complete personal development activities without being prompted, stay up to date on industry trends and news in their own time, and are quick to offer help or point out aspects of projects or the wider business that could be improved. These employees will often be a driving force in a team with high standards for their own work which they are committed to achieving.


Managers need to have good people skills and be comfortable supporting their team members as well as leading them. Another quality usually found in leaders of the future is that they’re collaborative and find it easy to work with others to see tasks through to completion.

The best managers have good relationships with the colleagues that they work with, and being comfortable and confident collaborating with others is a key part of building these relationships. You’ll be able to identify this trait in employees who are willing to get stuck into group tasks and projects, have good relationships with their team members, and work fairly and enthusiastically with others.


A really useful quality of a good manager is being perceptive. Not only is this an important part of having good people skills, but it helps these leaders gauge what kind of approach is needed at different stages of a project to ensure it reaches completion on time.

Perceptive future managers will be employees who can adapt to different situations and have a knack for understanding what needs to be done to work through a problem. You can also identify employees with this skill by considering their workplace relationships and whether they regularly support, encourage and debate with their colleagues, which shows the ability to perceive and respond to different scenarios.

7 Techniques for Developing Future Managers

Once you’re confident in identifying employees with leadership capabilities, your next step in preparing the next generation of managers is to implement different techniques that will help these employees reach their full potential. Here are seven of the most effective approaches to try in your aerospace and aviation company.


Mentorship programs are a classic approach in a leadership development strategy. By pairing more senior members of staff with junior employees, both parties can learn from one another and develop relationships that help juniors feel more prepared to step into a leadership role.

By providing potential managers with mentors at work, you can offer personalised coaching and development opportunities which give employees the chance to learn about more senior positions in the business and understand what they need to do to reach these roles. It’s a great way for junior employees to understand whether they’d like to take on a position like their mentor and then provide them with a tailored support and advice system to help them get there.

Feedback and Coaching

If a formal mentorship program isn’t possible then providing feedback and coaching is one of the best approaches to developing future managers. Once you’ve identified the employees that you want to put in a leadership pipeline, offer them specific feedback related to the development of their management skills to help them understand how to hone these and make the most of them at work.

Coaching is very similar to mentorship but is often done by a line manager or even a professional development coach. It can be a useful way for employees to take a more holistic look at their career goals and what is holding them back, allowing for specific management talent to be nurtured and honed in a way that will work best for your company.

Training Programs

Workplace training and development programs take many forms in the aviation industry, from mandatory health and safety training to general soft skills training courses. Whether you decide to put together a specific program for leadership skills development or just offer a range of personal development resources, having training programs that help employees upskill is a great way of retaining talent and preparing your team for more responsibility.

Challenging Projects

Experience navigating challenging situations is incredibly useful for a manager, and you can help your employees gain this experience by offering them chances to work on more challenging projects. This is also a useful tool for identifying staff that have the right attitude and outlook to succeed in a leadership role, as they'll be more likely to volunteer for opportunities to develop.

Working on challenging projects can work like a mentorship program or could just be a chance for an employee to develop new skills and get involved in a new aspect of your aerospace and aviation business. Whether they’re taking on responsibility for the first time or getting the chance to work with and learn from more experienced staff, one of the best ways to prepare future managers for their roles is through leadership development challenges.

New Responsibilities

Leading on from that point, another useful technique for developing future managers is by giving them more responsibility in their current role to help develop the necessary skills to lead and manage teams. This could be letting them take the lead on a section of a project, holding them accountable for getting work finished by a deadline, or asking them to delegate tasks within a team and then work with their colleagues to ensure these are completed.

Future managers will often be keen to take on new responsibilities at work and may even seek these opportunities out for themselves. By trusting your employees with more responsibility and allowing them to gain experience when the stakes aren’t as high, you’ll provide them with learning opportunities that help to develop the necessary managerial skills.

Shadowing Opportunities

Another great way that your junior employees can learn from current managers is through shadowing opportunities. This could just be for a day or could be part of a longer scheme that offers the chance to experience a more senior employee’s role and responsibilities for a week or so.

Shadowing at work is a great way to facilitate leadership development because it helps future managers get a realistic idea of what senior roles actually involve and whether they want to take on this responsibility. It also presents plenty of real-life learning opportunities and works as a practical kind of mentorship.

Track Progress

An essential element of developing the future of leadership in your aviation business is keeping track of the progress that your target employees are making. In order to do this successfully, first decide on the metrics you’re going to use to measure their growth which will determine their suitability for a management role.

You might measure progress based on the amount of responsibility someone takes on, the projects they are part of or the additional development they are doing in their role. These will be of varying degrees of straightforward to measure, but it’s worth having a system in place to monitor progress so that you can clearly identify the employees that are most suited to a management role.

Creating a Leadership Development Strategy

You can use any combination of the above techniques that we’ve recommended to create a leadership development strategy in your aviation business. The key things that matter are defining what you want in a future manager, understanding how to identify this and then providing the right kind of support to help the employee in question develop so that they can step into a manager role when required.

When it comes to setting up a leadership development strategy, the first step should be to identify the ‘linchpin’ roles in your business. Individuals in these roles are essential to the successful running of the company and should be prioritised when it comes to talent and succession planning so that you’re preparing future managers for positions where they’ll make a real difference.

Another key thing to consider when you’re establishing a strategy is to make your leadership development plans and pipeline clear for everyone. Employees involved in this plan should be aware of the position they’re expected to step into and why they’ve been chosen, as well as know that they’re expected to stay with your aviation company for a while in order to progress to a manager level.

Successfully implementing a manager and leadership pipeline could involve any of the techniques we discussed above, tailored to the employees involved and also the structure and needs of your business. This personalisation is another important aspect of creating a leadership development strategy that is going to serve your company well, as you’ll have specific requirements for managers that should be uniquely honed through training and opportunities.

Something else to consider to ensure success is making sure that employees are being fairly rewarded during their participation in development programs and then when they step into a management role. For a future management development strategy to work your employees need to be motivated to participate, and fair compensation is a necessary part of this.


There are many leadership development challenges faced by the aviation industry, but having an established strategy and program for preparing future managers is one of the best ways to ensure you retain the most talented employees and keep essential roles in your business filled. This approach is a brilliant way to mitigate the challenges of recruitment in today’s market and to ensure that your managers are fully aligned with your company’s values, purpose and goals, leading to a more cohesive and successful workforce overall.

If you’re looking for effective ways to fill management roles in your aviation business, working with a specialist recruitment agency like Oaklands Global can help. Find out more about our aviation and aerospace recruitment services or get in touch to speak directly to the team about how we can help.

by William Finden

About the Author: William Finden is the Founder and MD of Oaklands Global. He is a seasoned executive search and recruitment specialist with over 16 years of experience, dedicated to the international aviation & aerospace markets. William leads Oaklands Global’s C-Suite practice and has had a successful career delivering at the executive level for a diverse portfolio of clientele including Business Jet Operators, OEM’s, MRO’s, FBO’s Airlines and Rotary businesses. To learn more about how William can assist with your next career move or to discuss your next director level hire please contact him by email: