Like all organizations, design and architecture firms are feeling the effects of generational change as Boomers retire and seek younger talent to lead their firms.

Generational change is happening outside of professional service firms as well. According to a new study by Google and the research house Millward Brown Digital, 46 percent of potential buyers researching business-to-business products are millennials today, compared to 27 percent in 2012.

Though they may be approaching the challenge in different ways, the vast majority of them are preparing. According to the most recent DesignIntelligence leadership survey, 84 percent of respondents were actively developing their successors.

What methods are firms using to develop the next generation of senior leaders? Some firms rely on traditional models of identifying and cultivating new leaders, while others experiment with more innovative approaches.

When firm leaders were asked by DesignIntelligence to explain how they are developing their successors, the two most common answers involved rotating candidates through leadership positions in different functional areas of the firm (e.g. marketing, operations and finance) as well as following a formal development program.

Writing in the upcoming Leadership and Sustainable Design Surveys 2015 issue of DesignIntelligence, Steve Fiskum, a principal and former chief operating officer for HGA, describes seven key competencies that leadership development programs should focus on:

1. Strategic leadership and intellectual agility

2. Dealing with ambiguity and paradox

3. Organizational balance

4. Risk analysis and management

5. Negotiation and conflict resolution

6. Fostering diversity and equity

7. Organizational politics

Numerous respondents commented on the approaches that their firms are taking:

“Cultivating several younger associates and partners to step up into decision making roles, take control of client relationships. One has been promoted to managing director and is learning to run the business.”

Robert M. Rogers, Founding partner, Rogers Partners Architects+Urban Designers

“I am developing my successor by including him in almost everything I do, including the Executive Committee, and allowing him to take on any of my function that he wants. I act as his sounding board and mentor.”

Ron Rochon, Managing Partner, The Miller Hull Partnership

For more on the development of leadership in architecture, design and creative firms, you can preorder a copy of the Leadership and Sustainable Design Surveys 2015 issue of DesignIntelligence here.