A successful company weaves leadership development into its culture instead of adding it as an afterthought. The starting point for integrating leadership development into the warp and woof of a business is determining how the business defines leadership. This definition is unique to each organization.

What are the skills the company needs today? What skills will it require down the road? Size is important here, because larger organizations require skill sets that differ from the ones small businesses need. It takes time and thought to determine the leadership attributes best for the company.

Leadership is the topic of endless talk in business, with the real focus on how to lead the followers. The foresighted business, however, wants to develop leaders with the skills to lead leaders, because a company of well-led leaders is far more likely to transform into a more innovative and nimble competitor.

Leaders can be trained, not just born

Treat leaders like followers, and they most certainly will never acquire the independence, strength and personal accountability they need. Under such treatment, leaders will go elsewhere because they are not getting what they need to grow — training and the chance to practice what they learn.

Seminars and workshops are only part of the process for developing employees who exhibit basic leadership skills. Mentoring, cross training and job shifting should also be in the mix. Career management solutions can help businesses streamline and accelerate the process of leadership development.

Don't make nascent leaders stand in line for the chance to demonstrate their growing abilities, either. They learn best by putting what they have been studying into practice when they take charge of projects or teams. They in turn relish leadership development because it happens to help them further their careers, too.

Companies must measure budding leaders’ performance. Focus on their actual performance, not opinions about it. Track results and coach them in areas where they may need further training. Top management should always exemplify the kind of leadership the company wants.

Guidelines for leading leaders

Apart from leadership training and career development, there are additional ways for companies to encourage and manage leaders.

  • Set clear, unambiguous borders. Leaders want and need to know where their territory begins and ends. Clear boundaries help avert conflict when leaders’ areas of responsibility intersect. Only if leaders cannot resolve these conflicts on their own should top management intervene.
  • Set objectives that involve more than the leader’s own talent and individual effort. This requires them to determine the direction, gather a team and motivate everyone to get the project or task done. This treats them like the leaders the company wants them to become.
  • Set deadlines that challenge them and those they lead. The pressure of time helps them focus and grow in leadership.
04 December 2013

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