As leaders, we have access to an unprecedented amount of raw talent in our own organization. Entrusted with future leaders in the making, leaders have a responsibility for helping others use their emerging skillsets and undiscovered gifts.
Simon Sinek has a great quote that I think defines what it means to be a great leader. He says:
“Leading is not the same as being the leader. Being the leader means you hold the highest rank, either by earning it, good fortune or navigating internal politics. Leading, however, means that others willingly follow you—not because they have to, not because they are paid to, but because they want to.”
Following a leader by choice or by compulsion are two very different things. Here at Coachwell, our goal is to train up leaders that others are delighted to follow because they are good listeners, understand the needs of their people, know how to develop them and are committed to a vision bigger than themselves.
If you’re interested in perpetuating this kind of leadership within your ranks, follow these tips on raising up strong leaders in your midst.
Encourage ownership and an “expert” mindset
Raising up leaders means thinking ahead of the game. Take special notice of your team members’ points of strength and ask them to take more ownership in those areas. Encouraging ownership does two things:
1. Sets the person on course for perfecting a skill for which they are showing promise.
2. Encourages people to take on other types of responsibility in the future.
Start shaping your employees to view themselves as experts. Contrary to what you might believe, this has nothing to do with self-esteem or ego. It’s about giving someone freedom in an area they are good at and saying: “you have all the authority and permission you need to pursue this, now go for it!”
You may not realize how many of your team members are waiting to hear this from you. Too many people disqualify their knowledge or skillsets because they haven’t been given permission. This is a game-changer strategy for building up leaders.
Build a diverse team
Hiring people that don’t think, talk, or look like you is a benefit to your business and bottom line, and here’s why —conformity breeds stale ideas. Avoid it at all costs. When you are building your team, hire contrasting personalities, races, and genders to add a variety of experiences and viewpoints to your team.
While having a cohesive team dynamic is important, it doesn’t mean uniformity in all aspects. This will prepare your employees for communicating through disagreements, seeing perspectives outside of their own experiences, and learning to appreciate differences that strengthen the team.
Being a leader means knowing how to manage a variety of personalities from every background effectively, but it doesn’t come naturally. That’s why we recommend bringing a diverse set of personalities into a room and asking them to work together. There might be a few fireworks at first with wills pulling in opposite directions, but it will be a learning curve not only for your team but also for you.
Introduce coaching relationships and knowledge-sharing sessions
Leadership really begins when we invite our people to come on a journey with us. This starts when we: 1. Encourage others to step out and 2. Provide them a path to success. Coaching is one of the easiest ways to show others how to lead. Grooming internal leaders can start with a simple program where interns or first-year employees are paired with seasoned professionals for giving advice or offering support.
This helps those young in their career to ask for advice or see a future in a particular role. Another way to encourage growth is to create a track where participants make their way through a reading list or participate in monthly brown bag or AMA sessions (ask me anything) lunches to quiz senior leaders. This is a fun way to show people the path a leader takes is one of learning and curiosity.
Encourage the quiet people to talk
According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, “There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
This is important to remember as we often mistake the loudest people in the room for natural-born leaders. Leaders come from all backgrounds and personalities, and not all of them are verbal processors or outspoken. Men like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and even Marissa Mayer of Yahoo are poignant examples. Quiet people are a great asset because they often see things, whether flaws or solutions, that others breeze over. The beauty of having an observant personality in leadership is that they are in tune with others' emotional states and able to read people well. This helps leaders to stay in step with the climate of how employees are feeling in addition to performing.
Inspire with a clear vision
The best of leaders, whether quiet introverts or life-of-the-party extroverts, know how to articulate a clear vision of the future for others to follow. Inspiration is a huge factor in showing people a reason to keep pressing toward the goal. A leader is part visionary and part strategic executor for their teams, and the inspiration part is no less critical. People need to feel a compelling reason to join your mission or cause.
If your company has a mission statement or a particular goal in mind, talk about it all the time. Make it a part of everyday conversations and language, and make it impossible to miss. Leading with vision will help potential leaders understand where their role fits into the bigger picture and the things they should be driving toward to achieve success. And think outside the box with this one!
Maybe hire an artist to represent your mission statement through creative expression, or bring your team to a conference where they can regain vision and excitement for your industry, or do an off-site retreat day where you engage in strategic planning and sharing ideas. Help people get excited about their jobs, and they are far more likely to grow with you.
Try these tips for taking the raw talent you see in others and encouraging them to step into greater places of responsibility in leadership. Through leading by the example of service and encouragement, natural leaders will begin to sprout up in your midst. Doing these things now will secure a future of strong, clear-minded leaders who think on their feet and have a genuine desire to serve wherever they land.
To your excellence in raising up leaders,