You’ve probably been told before that a team is only as good as its leader. In all honesty, the terms ‘leader’ and ‘leadership’ are thrown around so much that they can lose their meaning. A leader isn’t always a courageous person at the front of a pack, rallying troops to take on impossible odds.
In reality, leaders come in all shapes and sizes, and they can be found in any position within an organization. Being a ‘leader’ by title doesn’t make you a good one — it just means that you have the opportunity to be one. So how can you become a better leader and develop leadership skills within your company?
In this article, we will discuss six ways that you can channel the power of leadership development into your organization. There is no single right way to do this, but these tips will provide you with a good foundation to get started.
Let’s go over each one.
1. Leadership development starts with reflection and assessment
Leadership development isn’t something you can do overnight. It’s a process that starts with understanding your own strengths and weaknesses as a leader, and then assessing the needs of your team. Only after you have a clear idea of what needs to be developed can you begin to put together a plan that will work for your company.
Because leadership development is aimed at improving and realizing the potential of leaders within your company, it’s important to start by assessing the current abilities of your team. This means taking a close look at individual talents, skills, and areas for growth.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the current strengths and weaknesses of our leaders?
- What gaps need to be filled in order to support future growth?
- What type of leadership style is most effective for our company culture?
- How can we develop leaders who embody our company values?
It’s also helpful to note down each person in a position of leadership so that you can assess their specific strengths and weaknesses. That way, you can tailor your leadership development plan to cater to the individual.
Once you’ve taken the time to assess the current state of your company’s leadership, you should start approaching the leadership team and making them aware of the development plan. This will help to get everyone on board and motivated to work towards common goals.
Some members of your company may take this as an insult, so try to frame the development plan in a positive way, stressing that this is an opportunity for growth and improvement.
2. Establish goals and objectives
As with any new business initiative, it’s important to establish clear goals and objectives for your leadership development. What do you hope to achieve through the program? Increased employee engagement? Improved communication and collaboration? Enhanced decision-making skills?
Be specific in what you want to accomplish, and then create a plan that outlines how you will measure progress along the way. This will help ensure that your leadership development initiative is successful and that everyone involved is aware of what’s expected of them.
Your goals and objectives should also be aligned with your company’s overall strategy. This will help ensure that the leadership development program supports and enhances your business goals, rather than working against them.
When creating a leadership development plan, it’s important to include the following components:
- The objectives of the program
- The target audience for the program
- The methods by which leadership development will be delivered
- How progress will be measured and evaluated
- Who is responsible for each element of the program
Make sure you communicate these details to all stakeholders, including employees, managers and executives, so that everyone is on the same page and understands the goals of the program.
3. Learn to coach and mentor others
You can spend months teaching your leadership team the different theories and frameworks of leadership, but there’s a better way to develop leadership skills. Coaching and mentoring allows leaders to learn by doing and applying their new knowledge in a safe, supported environment. (Not to mention, it takes a fraction of the time!)
Leaders who are coached and mentored are more likely to be successful, which makes sense, as they’re able to apply the skills they’ve learned in a real-world setting. Coaching and mentoring can also help leaders learn how to work effectively with others, manage stress, and communicate more effectively.
If you’re looking for a way to develop leadership within your company, start by coaching and mentoring your leaders. You might be a mentor yourself, or you might choose some successful mentors in your company to help coach and develop the leaders on your team.
Successful mentorships and coaching relationships share a few key ingredients:
- The mentor and the mentee should have a clear understanding of what they hope to achieve from the relationship.
- The mentor should be able to provide support, guidance, and feedback that is tailored to the mentee’s individual needs.
- The mentee should be willing to listen and learn, and should be prepared to put in the effort required to make the mentorship successful.
- The mentor and mentee should meet regularly to review progress and discuss any challenges or issues that have arisen.
If you don’t have the people power or resources to develop a leadership team from the ground up, using coaching and mentoring can be an effective way to fill the gap. And, as an added bonus, it’s a cost-effective way to grow your company’s leadership potential.
4. Provide opportunities for growth and challenge
The best leaders are often people who have been pushed out of the comfort zone, and in doing so, have discovered their natural affinity for leadership. You can help the leaders in your company reach their potential by providing opportunities for growth and challenge.
There are many ways to create opportunities for growth, whether that be adding more responsibilities to someone’s plate, giving them new challenges to take on, or sending them to trainings and workshops. However you do it, make sure that the opportunities you provide help leaders develop their skills and knowledge.
In addition, be sure to also give leaders room to fail. Allowing someone to make a mistake — as long as they learn from it — can be a powerful way to help them grow.
Here are a few more ideas for providing growth opportunities for leaders:
- If you notice that someone’s skills aren’t being used to their full potential — for example, an excellent writer who is stuck crunching numbers in accounting — give them a new challenge that will make use of their skills.
- Encourage leaders to go above and beyond in their roles. For instance, if you see that the head of human resources has fallen into a routine and is not taking on new challenges, suggest that they start mentoring other employees or spearhead a new project.
- Make sure that leaders have access to the latest information and tools. Your company may be rolling out a new software system, for example, and you can bet that the leaders will want to be among the first to learn how to use it.
- Send leaders to training and development programs. There are many excellent programs available, both online and in person, that can help leaders learn new skills and gain knowledge.
- Create a culture of learning. Leaders should feel comfortable asking for help and seeking out new information. Create an environment in which it’s okay to make mistakes, and where people are encouraged to learn from their experiences.
By providing opportunities for growth and challenge, you can help leaders in your company reach their potential and contribute more to the organization.
5. Improve your company culture
Your company’s culture is, in essence, the sum total of all the behaviors and actions that are considered acceptable within your company. It’s what employees take for granted, and it’s what shapes employee attitudes, motivation, and productivity.
Strong leadership cannot exist across the board in an organization that does not have a sound culture. Leadership and culture are intertwined, and the health of your company’s culture is essential for good leadership to take root and grow.
If you’re looking to improve leadership development in your organization, start by taking a close look at your company culture. Make sure that the behaviors and actions that you want to see in your leaders are actually being modeled by the managers and executives in your company.
If they’re not, it’s time to start reinforcing those values through training and development programs. And don’t forget to reward employees for exhibiting the desired behaviors. A positive culture is key to developing leaders within an organization.
A positive, productive company culture that is conducive to leadership development has the following characteristics:
- It is based on clear values and principles that are communicated to employees.
- Employees feel supported and appreciated.
- There is a sense of fairness and equity among employees.
- Communication is open, honest, and two-way.
- Employees are encouraged to take risks and are given the opportunity to learn and grow.
- Conflict is resolved in a constructive manner.
If your company culture does not exhibit these characteristics, it’s time to start making some changes. The first step is to identify the areas that need improvement, and then put together a plan to address them.
6. Keep support and communication channels open
As you go through the process of building your leaders into strong, capable individuals, it’s important to keep communication open. Leaders need to be able to communicate up as well as down, and they need access to the people they are leading in order to get feedback and stay on top of things.
Make sure you have systems in place for supporting your leaders. This might include providing them with the resources they need, such as training or mentorship, or it might mean giving them access to the people they need to talk to in order to get their jobs done.
Here are a few ways that you can keep communication open and support your leaders as they develop:
- Encourage them to ask for help when they need it
- Make sure they have access to the resources they need
- Provide opportunities for them to learn and grow
- Create a culture of feedback and communication
- Encourage them to communicate up and down
- Make sure they have access to the people they need to talk to
Leadership development is an ongoing process that never really ends. As your company grows and changes, so will the leaders who guide it. By keeping communication open, you ensure that your leaders will be able to continue growing and developing along with your company.
There we are — the six ways to channel the power of leadership development into your company. It’s up to you now to put these into practice and see the benefits for yourself. Remember that these methods are not mutually exclusive — you can and should use several of them in tandem to get the best results.
So what are you waiting for? Start developing those leaders today! Your company will be better off for it, and so will your newly-developed leaders.