How do you measure the quality of a leader? Could it be their worth in money? The surplus of successes they’ve generated? How often they play golf? Maybe it’s the legions of followers they’ve surrounded themselves with?
Nope. Leadership, unlike Twitter, is not about followers amassed. It’s about the leaders developed.
To some this will seem obvious, yet so few businesses put resources into leadership development. To others, this statement will seem ridiculous. What is a business leader supposed to do with more leaders? A good leader needs followers, they will surely say.
Well, what does a follower offer? A body that is willing to obey directions, and comply with tasks? A leader is one who can think critically, think long term, and can provide an innovative perspective. A follower will say sure, a leader can potentially suggest a better course of action.
You don’t have all the answers – that is a sad, but all too true fact. Research has proven that people think more strategically in a group setting, so wouldn’t someone who could suggest a better course, or provide you with constructive feedback be an asset? Furthermore, many daily interactions and operations in the business world require split second decisions.
Say a customer calls with a very strange, unsettling complaint. If your employees can’t act quickly, you can lose that customer for good. A follower will search for anyone who can tell them what to do next, while the customer sits on hold. A leader will know exactly what to do. They’ve been trained to think critically on their feet in moments of crisis. They may not fully understand the complaint, but they understand their options, and they understand the value of the customer experience. They’ve been taught well.
Of course there is a time to lead and a time to follow. Any good leader knows that. Whether on the ground floor, or in a swivel chair in head office, any strong leader understands there are times for innovation, times for strategy, and times for consolidated thought.
So, how do you turn your business teeming with followers into a business brimming with leaders? Here are a few suggestions:
It’s impossible to develop leadership in others if it’s not appropriately cultivated in yourself. Begin by assessing your position. Where are you now? How did you get there? This will hopefully lead to other questions: What qualities of leadership brought me to where I am? What insights have been most critical to my development as a leader? From there, set a plan for your future development: Where do you what to be in the future? Where do you want your business to be? Be sure to write those answers down!
Do you have all your answers written down from the questions above? Great! Now it’s time to share that information with all those you wish to develop. Then, encourage them to do the same activity. Motivate them to think critically about themselves, about their goals, and about their values. You are not teaching these leadership hopefuls processes, procedures, or technicalities. You are teaching them to think critically and strategically about their future. Encourage your team to reach beyond their potential, and there will be no glass ceiling to mar their success. Great leaders are great teachers.
Leadership reinvents culture. As leadership regenerates in a business over the years, each new leader is going to come at company culture in a different way. It’s about innovating your business. Your job as the leader of today is to ensure your business culture is conducive to learning, development, and innovation. If you run too tight a ship and identify more with the autocrats, perhaps you should look into developing a new culture. You might be suffocating your company’s potential.
Trust is a major aspect of developing leadership. In fact, without trust you are not developing leadership. So trust your team with more. You may be a perfectionist and a work-o-holic, but it will be your business that suffers if you can’t learn to delegate.
With a new generation of leaders comes a new generation of your business. The leaders you develop will be your legacy. They will be the ones who carry on your insights. They will also be the ones to provide insights of their own. This is how your business will expand, will grow, and will prosper.