Certain individuals just seem born to be leaders. However, even if you naturally exhibit typical leadership qualities, people don’t simply become great leaders overnight. They must be developed through ongoing learning and training opportunities.
“For most people, leadership is … a skill that must be nurtured throughout a career,” said Walter Lynch, CEO of Zipline Logistics. “If a company doesn’t invest in leadership training for its high-potential employees, those individuals are likely to leave and find opportunity and deeper engagement elsewhere.”
But you can’t approach leadership training the same way you approach other opportunities at your company, said Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher: It needs to feel special and be engrained as a core component of your organization’s culture.
“The more we can help develop future leaders, the more they want to want us to teach them,” Genack said.
If you want to invest in your company’s future through leadership training, here are a few key things to keep in mind.
Help them understand the difference between leading and managing.
If a leadership candidate seems more excited about being “the boss” who’s in charge of others, they’re probably not the best person for the job. Leadership is different from management, said Lynch; potential leaders need to recognize the differences and be open to the challenges.
“Leaders aren’t caught up with the notion of people working for them,” said Dale Falcinelli, chairman of the advisory council at Lehigh University’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship. “They’ll have the passion and drive to get where they need to go, and they’ll know that to get there, they have to work for and through other people.”
“[Leaders] need to be genuinely interested in growing the skills of others, not just in delegating tasks or managing processes,” Lynch added.
Lynch noted that effective leadership coaching should include a focus on self-awareness and emotional intelligence, empathy, managing change, and the importance of mentoring others to be strong leaders.
Teach them the ins and outs of your business.
A good leader must always be training the next generation of leaders, said Stephen Sheinbaum, founder of alternative financing company Bizfi. To do this, leadership candidates need to be well-versed in where your business is headed, and what kinds of people and skills will be needed to make that happen.
“If a greater use of technology is going to be key to the future growth of your company, then you’ve got to make sure that your leaders understand that technology and its importance in your industry,” Sheinbaum said. “They may not be the ones writing the code, but they have to know how to hire, communicate with and guide the coders that you will need.”
Genack agreed, adding that companies should focus on developing leaders not only within the management structure, but also within the employees’ broader fields.
“All employees should be encouraged to become experts and leaders in their fields of expertise,” he said. “This, in turn, helps them develop the skills and confidence to become leaders within their offices as well.”
Help them envision their future.
Genack reminded employers that they need to keep junior staff engaged and empower them to feel valued; otherwise, they may jump ship before they can reach a leadership position within your company. Matt Rizzetta, CEO of North 6th Agency, agreed, noting the importance of building a culture that frequently promotes from within.
“Build a culture where rising stars are identified, groomed and emerge as leaders, and establish a standard of excellence that is passed on down to the next generation of employee recruits,” he told Business News Daily. “The end result will be an organizational chart that constantly flows upward, showing nonstop movement, promotion opportunities and a trajectory that always points toward progress.”
Finally, Lynch noted that leadership development takes time. Potential leadership candidates need to be able to take the long view and see their training as part of their future at the company.
“Becoming a leader is a marathon and not a sprint. It takes time and effort to develop effective leadership skills,” he said. “[Future leaders] must be able to be held accountable for shortfalls and be open to criticism for continued grow and development.”