What are you doing to create and develop strong leaders in your organization? Leadership development is a science that many approach in a haphazard way. Developing strong leader requires a combination of applying normal employee training and cultivating certain character traits with the end goal of stimulating creativity, productivity and innovation in your company and making it grow.
Think about the strong leaders with whom you’ve worked. What did they do? Usually the same thing that creates satisfied, productive employees creates strong leaders. Let’s look at what strong leaders do to develop other strong leaders.
What Strong Leaders Do To Develop Others
Teach by Modeling
First and foremost, the best way to teach a behavior is to model it. We learn via our experiences, and we solidify key lessons based on the most memorable experiences. People often say: “I want to be like so-and-so or I don’t want to be like so-and-so.” One of the best ways to develop strong leaders is to simply be a strong leader. Exhibit leader-like character and behaviors and your employees will want to emulate those leadership qualities.
Encourage Disruptive Innovation without Micromanaging
The best leader is a disruptive innovator who isn’t a micromanager. Intent on keeping the business on the cutting edge, such leaders anticipate change and even push for it. They encourage creativity, innovation and risk-taking, and they teach their developing leaders to do the same.
Creativity, innovative thinking and risk-taking are not behaviors that happen in tense, overly-controlled environments, which is usually the product of micromanagement. When is the last time an employee said, “I love working under this micromanager!” Never. Usually, colleagues whisper in back hallways and over coffee about how they hate being micromanaged and how it stifles their creativity, drive and passion. Everyone wants to jump ship. To cultivate loyalty and an atmosphere full of novel ideas, you must allow creative freedom and not limit your staff.
Provide Opportunities that Challenge Your Developing Leaders
One of the keys to developing strong leaders is to provide opportunities that challenge and push your aspiring leaders to grow. Consider placing them on projects that are outside their usual work. Allow them a leadership role on a project or place them on a committee as a leader-representative. A McKinsey Quarterly survey noted that 63% of employees appreciated opportunities to lead projects. Create opportunities that are challenging but aren’t so far outside their realm of expertise that they are detined to fail. Even if they do fail, don’t attack them; instead, use it as a teachable opportunity.
Cultivate Responsibility and Real Humility
Responsible and humble employees are hard to come by. In developing leaders, you must cultivate a strong sense of responsibility and humility. A true leader takes responsibility when things go wrong and gives credit to others when they go well. No one likes that person who snatches all the accolades and rewards and then casts blame when failure hits. Taking responsibility and demonstrating real humility opens the door to creativity and ushers in a freedom to try new things.
Teach the Importance of ‘Thank You’
This goes hand-in-hand with giving credit for a job well done. People appreciate praise, and it promotes better performance. The McKinsey survey found that 67% of respondents stated that praise and recognition were extremely effective motivators. Surprisingly, this nonfinancial incentive rated more highly than financial incentives, such as performance-based cash bonuses at 60% or an increase in base pay at 52 percent. Clearly, appreciating and rewarding employees is a key element to growing your company.
Tap Into Their Passion
Passion drives us all. If employees don’t have a deep, fundamental passion for their work, they won’t work hard for the long term, and they may not stay. A Gallup poll found that only 32% of the U.S. workforce was engaged and that disengaged workers were much more likely to leave. Worker engagement is tied into their own enthusiasm and that of their leadership. If they don’t discern that their leadership is genuinely passionate, they’re not going to be motivated.
One of the ways to develop strong leaders is to encourage them to tap into their zeal. Everyone must come to the job with enthusiasm in order to see themselves through the challenging times. It’s also necessary to push innovation and creativity to the next level.
Work Ethic: Be Driven and Drive Hard But Be Understanding
No one likes a hypocrite or “slacker.” A boss or colleague who doesn’t carry his fair share or who expects a lot from everyone else but not himself won’t be respected. It’s imperative to grow a strong work ethic in your developing leaders. Employees want to work for someone they respect and works as hard as they do.
At the same time, be understanding of people going through tough times. People appreciate a leader who understands the constraints and limitations in their lives, such as a newborn child, and allows them the flexibility and freedom to find a solution to their dilemmas.
Invest in Your Employees
Send your developing leaders to workshops and seminars. Encourage them to go back to school to expand their knowledge and skill set. They need training and exposure to new ideas in your industry or their knowledge base is sure to grow irrelevant. If they’re just churning through work without being fed new ideas and ways of doing things, they’re going to suffer burn out and their growth will suffer.
Teach Developing Leaders to Communicate Effectively
It’s important to have excellent communication skills. Teach your aspiring leaders the importance of transparency, honesty and being genuine. Holding secrets and information is a power move and destructive to morale. The better your leaders and employees are able to communicate, the more they’ll feel invested in the company and will help push your company forward.
Deal with Wrongful Activity Swiftly & Justly
When there’s inappropriate, illegal or unethical activity, deal with it quickly and justly. Treat it as an opportunity to teach and model how a strong leader deals with such things. You must communicate to your employees, particularly your aspiring leaders, why you’re doing what you’re doing (without violating employee confidentiality). You must show that you’re fair and decisive.
Mentoring and Coaching Leaders
Invest in your leaders by pairing them with your senior-level employees or yourself. If you mentor, it shows you’re accessible and that you care. Explain the choices you make and why. This is an effective way to pass on knowledge and problem-solving techniques that if neglected, will disappear when your senior-level employees retire.
Effective leadership development involves taking tangible, practical steps and cultivating certain character traits to encourage productivity and innovation. Make sure to have a deliberate program in place to grow your company.
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