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Developing Future Leaders: 5 Steps for Leadership Development

Updated July 15, 2021

Developing future leaders is always a concern at the executive level. Deloitte University Press has released their Global Human Capital Trends 2021. The report is full of interesting statistics, but of particular note is that among 6000 HR and business leaders – leadership was listed as a top priority for supporting preparedness. The report documents a need to develop leaders who are adaptable and can develop their team members.

Think about this. Who will replace you? What’s that you say? You’re irreplaceable. Really? In fact, if you really can’t be replaced then you won’t be. Ever. Those nice promotions will go to someone else.
So, back to the first question. Who will replace you? One of your responsibilities as a leader is to train future leaders. Whatever success I’ve had has been because those who I worked for took the time, and had the patience to help me learn how to lead.

How do you develop future leaders? How do you train people the leader that can replace you? There are several steps you need to take.

1. Give them opportunities to lead. Start with something small that won’t be disastrous if you have to step in at the last minute. That seems obvious, but it’s not really that common.
2. Let them observe you. There may be times when you have to keep things close to the vest, but let your protégé watch how you handle challenges and even set-backs. I had several bosses who let me tag along to the meetings, and engaged me in issues that were above my pay grade. They gave me a chance to see how more senior leaders interacted and how they dealt with issues.
3. Use your coaching sessions to steer them toward more responsibility. Your goal is not to just help them improve on the job, but to also recognize opportunities to go beyond their current position. Did your boss ever tell you that “you should really consider this?”
4. Make sure your boss can see your protégé. It’s a common practice to hide your best people so they won’t be taken away. Make it clear that you see potential in this person and you are grooming them for future success.
5. Send them to real leadership training. Not the one-day fire hose treatment but serious training that helps them develop and apply real leadership skills.

Most leaders like to think that they will leave something behind to be remembered for. One of the best legacies you can have is to be known for unselfishly developing future leaders.
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