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In business circles, leadership development is a big talking point. You can’t throw a rock on the internet without hitting something about the importance of leadership skills in business — and for good reason. Empowering your employees to become leaders builds trust, eliminates the need for micromanagement and allows employees to feel a sense of ownership of their own work.
Why Build Leaders?
The first point to touch on is the question of why you want to build leaders in the first place. If you’re reading this, you’re likely a leader in your workplace in some capacity. It’s natural to wonder why you want to prepare others for leadership when that’s your job.
LinkedIn Learning has a great resource about this and discusses the fact that the performance of leaders drives the impact on your bottom line. Any aspect of your business that impacts your bottom line significantly is clearly worth investing in, and developing the leadership skills of your staff is no exception.
At my company, developing leadership skills was important to me for a couple of reasons. We operate in a results-only work environment, where everyone has total freedom to work however and whenever they will be the most effective. The only thing that matters is that clients’ needs are met and the results are the best they can be. Everyone on the team is accountable and trusted to do the best work they can while representing the company positively.
On top of that, everyone has somewhere they want to go in their careers. Everyone wants to be moving to bigger and better things. With the working style we have at my company, team members have the freedom to pursue their passions and develop themselves. Some pursue entrepreneurial passion projects, and it’s great to see our team applying their leadership skills both at work and during their own time.
Research proves that this kind of thinking is key in retaining top talent. People are more likely to stay with an employer if they can see a strong career path ahead of them.
Psychology Of Leadership
Psychology Today has all kinds of information about how to develop leadership skills, boiling down what makes a good leader into three major aspects: being smart, being emotionally savvy and having the right character.
It’s easy to look at these aspects of leadership and think, “Well, there it is. I guess I’ll never be a leader.” With that kind of attitude, no, you won’t. Great leaders are never born; they’re made, and these aspects of leadership can be developed like any skill.
To develop your business smarts, learn about your business and the team you work with. Learn how to collect and analyze information. Be tactful in your conversations, and learn how to get to the valuable information you need from people.
Emotional prowess refers to your ability to read others’ emotions. Being able to look at someone in a situation and identify how they feel is a critical skill. While you’re developing this emotional intelligence and keeping the feelings of others in mind, apply the same to yourself. Learn how to be in control of your emotions, handle your stress and don’t act out in anger. A good leader can experience their emotions, read their meanings and act appropriately.
Developing leadership character sounds vague, but it breaks down into four simple ideas. The character of a good leader means you are fair in your treatment of others, you regulate your emotions and passions, you are wise and consider other points of view and you have the courage to do the right thing, even if that means taking calculated risks.
Putting It In Practice
We already talked about ways individuals can develop their own leadership abilities, but as a leader, there are some steps you can take to give your team a little push in that direction.
First, make sure you act as a mentor. Be a source of information and inspiration for your team, and make sure they feel comfortable reaching out to you as a resource.
Second, you want your people to be networking. From after-work events to multiorganization networking events, encourage your prospective leaders to attend. This way, they have an opportunity to practice communicating effectively and growing more comfortable in their communities and can flex their leadership muscles a bit.
Third, give them experience. Give your team assignments that challenge them and encourage them to employ those leadership skills they’ve been developing. All the study in the world doesn’t make up for experience. Putting your potential leaders into situations where they will be managing other employees for short periods of time is a perfect primer for greater leadership opportunities down the road.
Finally, let them struggle. Part of being challenged is struggling to meet demands. As you struggle, you’ll push and grow to meet and exceed your expectations. Of course, this doesn’t mean you force prospective leaders to swim or die; help them out if things are getting too rough. You’re a team, after all. I’m only suggesting you don’t rush to their aid at the first sign of danger; let them make their own decisions and find their own solutions.
To foster leadership skills at my company, I took a very personal approach. Working with my team one on one, we analyze their strengths, where they can improve, where they want to go in their career and what we can do to get them there.
This method of building a team of leaders has seen great results for my company, and if you’re interested in taking your organization to the next level, I highly recommend you do the same.
April 25, 2019 at 08:37AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs