Leadership skills that EVERYONE should develop # 7 – develop leaders around you.

There are many indicators that show how good a leader you are. And if you’ve absorbed all the lessons in my series so far … and put them into practice, you should be getting there yourself. But one more thing that leaders at any level can challenge themselves to ACTIVELY do is to develop leadership skills in others … the key word here being ‘actively’. It’s easy to be so involved in the business of leading (or leading the business) that it’s easy to lose track of who’s climbing the ladder behind you, or to just assume that other leaders are stepping up to the plate behind you.

So here’s what you need to do …

1) Identify and encourage those with leadership potential.
Keep your eyes open for people who demonstrate integrity and leadership capability, not just in terms of their output, but also in terms of their behaviours.

Bear in mind that this capability can manifest itself in many different ways, and some of them might be easier for you to spot than others. By that, I mean it might be easier for you to spot people with similar leadership skills to your own, but possibly less easy to identify people with a different set of leadership  skills to yours (this links back to the point I made in my last post about NOT necessarily valuing your own skills set above others).

I’d strongly suggest that you observe HOW potential future leaders operate, and don’t just look at their achievements on paper.  In the short term, you might find it acceptable to advance someone who, let’s imagine, exceeds their sales target consistently, but takes short cuts and is a little underhand in how they achieve this.

In the longer term though, negative behaviours  – acting without respect or integrity – are likely to result in resentment and stress amongst colleagues, leading to lowered motivation and lower productivity.  And sometimes, as we’ve seen in recent corporate and political history, the consequences can be far worse.

Remember, too, that not everyone sees their own potential, particularly if they are at an early stage in their career. It might be up to you to identify and nurture the leaders of the future.

2) Coach, don’t always instruct.
Coaching in its truest form involves asking the coachee questions that help them to clarify their thoughts, find their own way forward, and take action. It does NOT involve giving training, advice or instructions for them to follow.

Obviously enough, as a leader, you’re going to need to direct people some of the time. But think how empowering it would be if, rather than trying to provide all the answers to a potential leader, you let them define themselves and, coached by you, make their own way forward.

It’s the difference, in simple terms, between saying “I think you ought to do xyz to improve this situation” and saying “what do YOU think you can do to improve the situation?”. Yes, it takes longer to coach someone than to give them the answers … but the impact and the buy-in  and the long term result in terms of building the confidence of future leaders are all much more powerful.

In developing a culture of independence where people are solution focussed rather than coming to you with their problems and expecting you to have the answer, it’s also a strong approach.

3) Become a mentor.
If you’ve reached a level of leadership to which you reckon others might aspire, you could think about offering to be a mentor.  Mentoring differs from coaching, as here you’ll be offering pointers and advice to the person you are mentoring. In effect, you have travelled some way down the path that they wish to follow.

There are plenty of opportunities for you to become a mentor, within larger companies, within enterprise agencies and indeed within the voluntary sector, so seek out opportunities.

A strong mentor can have a profound impact on the leaders of the future, so it’s a great way to ‘put something back’.

4) Provide opportunities for leadership.
It’s worth taking a step back sometimes and allowing someone else to take the leadership reins for a while, perhaps on a specific project or task.  OK, so you might well remain ultimately accountable, but that shouldn’t stop you from allowing others to step forward and test their potential from time to time.

Conversely, it’s worth giving some thought as to whether you might unwittingly be blocking leadership potential in others, perhaps by assuming control too much, or taking too much of a directing approach.

5) Be a role model .
This, I’d argue, is the most important factor of all.  At some level, you ARE a role model for others, whether you’re aware of it or not.  And I’m sure we’ve all come across people in our lives who are BAD role models and who provide an exemplar of what NOT to do and how NOT to treat people. I know I certainly have!

In short, aim to be the leader that you would want to follow. And remember that, while you’re developing leaders of the future, you’re also developing your own abilities to coach, mentor, and lead, and make a genuine difference.

*******

So there we have it – 7 leadership skills that everyone should develop. Of course, there are many more – the ability to motivate people, the ability to think strategically, the ability to prioritise, to make decisions, to communicate effectively and so on.

I’ve tried to scratch beneath the surface at some of the less obvious, more personal ones, and I hope it’s given you some food for thought as you develop your own leadership style and imprint.

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