In many companies, leadership development is synonymous with succession planning — simply charting a course to fill future vacant management positions. But, true leadership development goes behind that. It’s about developing the people who embody the best of your company and the values it strives for and who can inspire the same behavior in others.
It’s an ongoing process that should be ingrained in the corporate culture at every level. Companies that invest in developing leaders can realize bottom line benefits besides just filling open slots.
The challenge is that many companies admit they are poorly equipped to cultivate leaders. In fact, according to the organizations surveyed by Brandon Hall Group, half say their current leaders already lack the skills needed to be effective today, and worse yet, 81% say their leadership development is ineffective.
Regardless of whether you build or buy talent, leadership development is critical. And, when companies take a comprehensive approach to nurturing leadership skills at all levels, the result can be an extraordinary environment that helps your employees — and your business —thrive. Here are three tactics that can put you on the right path to developing great leaders:
1. Identify high-potential employees and start cultivating them early. It makes sense to identify people who display critical leadership attributes — aspiration, ability and engagement — in their daily work and develop the skills of this specific group. Remember, there’s a difference between “high potentials” and “high performers.” While an individual may excel in their current role, they may not want to be a leader. Start by incorporating a leadership-potential review into recruiting processes and performance discussions to help decision makers focus on the individual’s potential for leadership, rather than just past success and technical skills.
2. Make coaching a fundamental priority. In addition to coaching leaders, it’s important to also train those leaders to be good coaches for their own team. Leaders should learn how to provide timely, specific, relevant, frequent and actionable feedback. By getting to know their team members, they can gain a better understanding of how to coach and encourage employees in a way that’s motivating and supportive, not micro-managing. Beyond just scheduled one-on-one meetings with employees, coaching should take place every day and good leaders should know how to listen, ask open-ended questions, build positive relationships with team members and encourage them to seek alternative solutions.
3. Articulate top-level objectives. While the C-suite typically sets forth the company’s long-term strategic objectives, it’s typically mid-level leaders who are tasked with making it happen as they work directly with employees on a daily basis. That’s why it’s critical that leaders at every level understand and are able to explain company initiatives to their team and how team members’ individual work contributes to those strategic objectives. Ensure front-line managers are able to convey how individual performance goals align with organizational objectives and their own career development needs and aspirations. By tying daily tasks to the overall plan, employees at every level feel a greater sense of investment and engagement in helping the company achieve those goals.
Develop great leaders to inspire greatness in others
According to a recent PwC survey, both CEOs and young leaders agree that cultivating a pipeline of future leaders is a top priority for businesses. Great leaders improve culture, engagement and business results — all of which are critical to organizational success.
More importantly, great leaders help to inspire and motivate employees to do their best work at every opportunity. Effective leaders understand that listening is more important than talking, and they have the emotional intelligence it takes to help people work to their fullest potential. And, that’s what great leadership is all about: helping people to find their passion and do what they love.
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