Do you find that most of the leadership for your team is generated by you as appointed leader? And that you drive the vision, direction, motivation, and solutions?
Good leaders recognize that one of their primary functions is to develop the leadership skills of others.
Michael Useem, in his book, The Leadership Moment, advocates that “Periods of normalcy – when strategies are working, and results are flowing – are the times to develop leadership even though its need is least evident.” That begs the question whether we will ever have periods of normalcy again. Therefore, the time to develop leaders is always now. But how do you do it?
Think about who the potential leaders might be. There are some obvious ones such as those that have teams of their own reporting to them, people who have been excelling at their work, and those who say they want to lead.
And don’t discount the less obvious choices. Who in your team has put forth a unique idea, taken some initiative, or found a solution before the problem became obvious? What does your gut tell you?
Ask for their opinions and ideas. One of the stumbling blocks for strong leaders is that you can figure it out faster, and get it accomplished more quickly than your team can. However, what you are ignoring is a rich resource of information at your fingertips. What can be more valuable than getting more than one point of view?
By asking questions, you show you value their opinion, creating greater self-confidence. You engage them in thinking about the problem or situation. Our brains are wired to solve problems and you’ve tapped into that potential. You begin to create an initiative-taking, idea-rich culture.
Give them experience. Assess the mettle of your potential leaders by giving them a project that stretches them. Give them latitude to make their own decisions and own mistakes.
But don’t leave them flapping in the wind. Check in on their progress and make critical course corrections when necessary.
Useem reminds us, “If you expect those who work for you to exercise their own judgment, provide them with the decision-making experience now.”
Provide the opportunity for your potential leaders to establish creditability. By providing opportunities to excel, the potential leader demonstrates their knowledge, capabilities, and their ability to produce results. This establishes their creditability up, down and across the organization. The best leaders find ways to showcase their staff’s talents.
Share your stories and the stories of others. There is nothing that can replace first- hand experience. And yet, many of us can remember someone else’s story of their experience that informed what decision we made in a comparable situation.
There is a reason that teachers are revered in many cultures. Stories allow us to broaden our experience and repertoire without having to live it all ourselves.
In a Fortune article in September 2007, Geoff Colvin wrote on How Top Companies Breed Stars. He observed, “Of the many powerful forces driving companies to develop leaders more effectively, the most important is the world economy’s long-term shift from dependence on financial capital toward human capital.”
What investment are you making in developing the potential leaders in your organization? Are you expecting them to self-identify or be an obvious star?
Being a leader means taking risks. How can you support others to become risk takers?
Then there are the diamonds in the rough, indistinguishable but for a glimmer of their brilliance beneath the surface. What will you do to get to that brilliance? Who are the potential leaders on your team and what are you doing to develop them?