Leadership is fascinating for many reasons (well, at least it is to me). There’s the intangible value that’s transferred from one person to another and the decision-making that flows from a leader’s intentions that creates ripple effects throughout the organizational pond. No matter how you look at it, leadership is both the problem and the solution to personal and professional challenges.
Why, then, are there so many gripes when it comes to leadership?
Complaints without solutions can be seen as signs of ignorance, not out of a lack of brain power -- although that would be a sufficient enough reason -- but in a lack of contextual insight.
Here’s what I mean: As an entry-level employee, it’s easy to wonder why your leaders decided upon X when Y was “clearly” a better option, so what happens is curiosity builds until it evolves into complaining -- not out of malicious intent but because those lower level employees simply aren’t privy to the same information as their senior leaders.
From a leadership perspective, not being transparent about the internal dynamics of the company can cause more harm than good. Without information, people tend to create their own realities and spin the unwanted rumor mill out of control.
So how do you ensure leadership evolves effectively? Here are five strategies to grow better leaders:
1. Begin day one
Leadership development starts when the employee starts, not when he or she becomes a senior exec 12 years from now. Waiting until later to build leadership capacities delays two things: personal growth and organizational growth. Why wait?
2. Qualify candidacy
Not everybody needs the same exposure. There are brilliant minds who can envision 15 years into the future and imagine every minute process that needs to be developed along the way, but they put their shoes on backwards. Rather than putting this visionary genius through a curriculum on strategic thinking -- of which he or she could write the curriculum -- offer to build his or her competency in other areas, such as emotional intelligence or active listening.
Related: 15 Habits of Mentally Tough People
3. Hire for character, train for competence
The skills associated with leadership can be learned -- if they couldn’t then I’d be out of a day job. To the extent that you’re willing and able to raise employees according to a standard of leadership the company expects, then the more accountability you’ll create. It’s when personal interpretation injects itself into the daily “being” that directives get muddled and communication goes askew. And while we’re at it, once your employees are deemed competent, coach them for performance -- you don't want them to lose the edge.
4. Don’t promote mediocrity
Just because there’s someone in line to succeed the CEO doesn’t mean he or she is the right person. When it comes to aligning individual competencies with organizational needs, make sure the two are a firm handshake. In other words, don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole just because there are no other blocks to play with or because you like to hammer things -- you’ll only hold the organization or yourself back from realizing its full potential.
5. Resist the A+B=C mentality
A good manager does not always equate to a good leader. The two roles have different responsibilities and therefore different definitions of success. If you really want to ease the emotional toll associated with employee promotion, make it clear what skills and competencies should stay in the managerial realm and which ones will need to be developed and train your people on the latter.
Just like any investment, leadership development requires time, focus and a consistent effort to make it work. Plant the seed today and watch your business grow.