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Developing Future Leaders

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Leaders aren’t born, they are made. – Vince Lombardi

When you arrive at the office, what do you see?

People engrossed in work, helping you run the business.

There’s nothing extraordinary about this. They come in at 9am, do their job and then leave around 5pm.

But, under the surface, there’s something else unfolding. Something exciting that you can’t detect unless you look hard enough.

Brilliant minds with oodles of potential and unflagging energy. People within your team who have the leadership skills to influence the future of your business.

Why spend resources looking outside for next-gen leaders when you can look within? Here’s how and the ways you can help them grow.

Spotting Leader Potential

To spot a burgeoning leader in your workforce put on your Sherlock cap and use the process of elimination. People with leadership potential have specific characteristics. Here are five big ones:

An Appetite for Growth

Potential is not to be confused with performance. You’ll have workers who do their duties day in, day out. No complaints. They’re brilliant because of their dedication. But unlike leaders, they’re content to follow the grain.

Your next trailblazer will stand out because of their desire to grow. They’ll vocalise their interest in opportunities to move up in the business. These individuals are eager to learn, progress and push themselves to the limits.

Eyes on the Prize

If an employee ties in their progression with the company’s future, they have leader written all over them. They’re fully invested in the business: its mission is their mantra.

You’ll know this because of their deep understanding of the company, its journey so far and what’s on the horizon. They’ll proactively make suggestions for growth, and each business milestone is directly linked to their personal progression. Your company’s success is theirs too.

An Instigator of Change

One does not simply sit and watch the world go by. Leaders are catalysts of change. They drive results and are consistently looking for ways to improve business processes.

They are passionate people burning with ideas. Courageous decision-makers whose primary aim isn’t just to please others and complete their daily tasks. They want to see the business progress and will work relentlessly to make it happen.

Always Accountable

Everyone makes mistakes. But the difference between a leader and a follower is how they react when things go wrong.

Leaders-in-the-making will own up to their faults. They will take full responsibility rather than pass the blame or act as if the mistake never occurred.

At the same time, slipping up does not equate to failure. As Thomas Edison once said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” They see each error as an opportunity to grow and will continue to work hard rather than lose their motivation from the blow.

Emotionally Intelligent

Emotional intelligence is a defining characteristic of a supreme leader. History’s greats were masters of their emotions – they knew how to communicate properly to effectively manage people.

For instance, in his later years, Abraham Lincoln learnt that criticism was an unavailing leadership tool. To gain loyal followers, he needed to be understanding and forgiving. As the man himself put it: “Don’t criticise them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.”

Your future leaders might not be at peak emotional intelligence, but they are certainly on their way. Here are some telling signs:

  • They can express their emotions clearly and directly
  • They aren’t plagued by worry or fear
  • They can access situations from all angles
  • They aren’t motivated by power or wealth but by doing the right thing

By now a familiar face or two may have sprung to mind. You’re beginning to understand which employees are leader material. But your work isn’t over. To help leaders-in-the-making realise their potential, you have to promote that growth from within the business.

An Academy for Leaders

Leadership development should be a part of your business strategy. Think of it as not only an investment in sustainable business growth but in your employees’ future too.

The best approach is using formal training and on-the-job development. Hire expert speakers to deliver leadership workshops for all levels.

You could also set challenging assignments to encourage staff to push themselves and maximise their capabilities.

What’s more, job rotation is a smart system that allows staff to develop new abilities, helping them grow while also accommodating for skills gaps in the business.

Coaching can be a catalyst for greater self-awareness and personal development. You could bring in external facilitators trained in leadership to hold one-on-one discussions with employees.

During these sessions, individuals with leadership potential should gain guidance for specific challenges. And the opportunity to express their fears and weaknesses will help them overcome any self-doubt.

Finally, create a solid reward system to incentivise leadership behaviour. Develop a strategy to monitor and measure staff performance, such as appraisals, so you can fairly reward those who deserve it.

Your Responsibility

As a business leader, your words carry weight. In addition to what you’ve learnt today, give personal credit for accomplishments and help employees strengthen their self-belief.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” — Jack Welch

The power is in your hands to determine the fate of your business.