Understand that this is a fundamental responsibility of your role. If you accept the privilege of being a leader, you are responsible for developing more leaders.
A few years ago, I was having lunch with a group of CEOs and in the middle of the conversation, one of the CEOs who was nearing retirement was lamenting that of their four direct reports, nobody was yet ready to step into the CEO role when he retired. This was a clear issue. Yet each of the CEO’s current direct reports had worked with him for at least four years. So there had been time. Every leader needs at least an heir and a spare. So, I wondered to myself ‘what had been going on.’
Unfortunately, I also blurted out that I thought it was a failure of leadership. This CEO said to me, in a shocked voice, “So you think this is my fault?” I responded, “Well, if not you, then who?”
This is the CEO of a large organisation who clearly knew that he was on a path to retirement and yet had not made the effort to ensure that there was a suitable candidate to step into the CEO leadership role. Who else had the responsibility for developing the leadership bench?
The world is crying out for more leaders and leadership right now and it is your responsibility to supply it. Complaining about one of your team members not taking accountability or showing initiative isn’t good enough. Complaining about your boss’ poor leadership isn’t good enough. Being frustrated that your team members are not stepping up, is not leadership. It is up to you.
In their Global Leadership Forecast 2021, DDI found that only 11% of organisations have a strong or very strong leadership bench. And one of the key contributors to those that did was focused, strategic, consistent development of leaders.
People look to you for leadership no matter what level of leadership you hold. They look to you to understand what leadership looks like. What leadership does. How leaders behave. How leaders make decisions and take action.
Every day as a leader, you can be a mentor, a model, and a coach. You have the opportunity to grow more leaders. The question is, are you doing it at all, are you doing it unconsciously or are you doing it proactively? I believe in order to ensure that you are growing leaders, that you need to mentor, model and coach proactively.
This means deliberately sharing your knowledge, wisdom, and experience so that your people’s own capability grows. Making them more equipped for the future.
It means modelling, which you do every day anyway. You role model. The question is, are you role modelling the right stuff in the right way? Are you role modelling leadership as you would like it to be developing? So think about how you are showing up, think about what you are modelling as the role model of leadership.
The third thing is to coach. To help people to develop accountability, to make good choices, to figure a pathway forward, to take action and to really own it and follow through. And in so doing, help them to take advantage of the learning moments that happen during a coaching process or coaching moment so that they are more equipped for next time. This is all growing your leaders.
So how do you grow more leaders?
There is no single thing, it is the accumulation over time, the daily increments that contribute to the growing of leadership.
Here are a few simple opportunities you can use to proactively grow the people around you:
- Ensure you have your regular one-on-one meetings consistently with each of your direct reports, whether weekly or fortnightly. Use these as opportunities to coach the future focus.
- Ensure you have some reactive time available to respond to ‘have you got a minute’, or ‘can you help me with this.’ Using these moments as opportunities to mentor and coach, creating stretch, learning and growth.
- Have your rising leaders accompany you to key meetings and forums, so they can see firsthand what goes on in them. Creating exposure to different and more high-level forums, will grow their knowledge of leadership, your business, priorities and how they can contribute.
- Have them step into your role where you’re absent.
- Secondments to other parts of your organisation create exposure to new ideas, knowledge and people, expanding perspective.
- Offer stretch projects, to challenge them and their growth.
- Expose your rising leaders to aspects of your role they may not be aware of. Anything from forecasting to strategic planning, to writing reports.
- Be deliberate and proactive about performance development planning and implementation.
- Challenge them to raise their own leadership game, and to also mentor, model and coach those around them.
A few ideas to help develop your leaders’ capability, their confidence and their sense of what leadership is really all about.
What is one thing you can do to be focused on growing more leaders?
I’d love to know your thoughts.
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