The best part of my leadership career is the people who have helped me develop as a leader. Those leaders helped me gain the necessary skills and gave me the opportunities to succeed. At the same time it’s gratifying to see my team leaders develop and become more successful.
One of the most important tasks a leader has is to develop future leaders. Some leaders don’t like that idea for two reasons. First, they fear that the person they developed as a leader will end up taking their job. Consider this. Are you really irreplaceable? If you really can’t be replaced then you won’t be. Ever. Those nice promotions will go to someone else.
The second fear is that developing a team member will result in losing a good team member. This may be true, but often, if a team member thinks they can’t ever move up, they will lose their desire to excel.
So, how can you develop future leaders?
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. That really helped as I reached more senior levels myself.
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. I don’t recommend the one-day, cover everything, fire hose treatment but serious education and training that helps them develop real leadership skills. Then give them opportunities to practice those 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 as the leader who unselfishly helped others succeed.
This is the third in a three part series on finding, evaluating, and developing leaders. The first two articles are here, and here.
See videos of these any many other leadership tips at Bob’s YouTube channel.