May 19

Do Your Experienced Leaders Prioritise Growing Their Leaders? Here is Why Not.

I’m hearing on repeat that leaders are not happy with how the leaders reporting to them are developing. It might be a CEO talking about the leaders in their exec team or a middle leader talking about a new or emerging leader. They are not happy with the speed and/or progress of development of the capability in the leaders who are reporting to them.

My question is always, what are they doing about it?

It is every leader’s responsibility to develop the leaders who follow them.

Why is it that leaders are not developing their upcoming leaders, at every level?

Leaders have a primary responsibility to develop more leaders, and yet it is not happening.

Why not?

Why aren’t you developing your leaders?

Or, why aren’t the leaders who are more senior and experienced than you developing you?

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

Jack Welch

I think there are a few things at play:

To date, there has not been great leader role modelling of exactly this process, how a leader develops an upcoming leader, or a less experienced leader than themselves. Because this role modelling did not take place, there is no precedent for more senior leaders to be role modelling now, to be deliberately developing the leaders around them.

I think it is reasonable to suggest, if you did not get this role modelling yourself, then you need to create a new set of leader role modelling going forward. You need to create the cascading path of leadership development, where each leader takes the responsibility for developing more leaders who are following them. This will start to break the cycle of ‘we are not developing our leaders’.

Leaders do not necessarily know which capabilities they should be developing in other leaders. Which areas they should focus on in the development of the leaders around them. Fair enough. They may have had to figure it out on their own. Again, take responsibility and lead.

You need to build great leadership foundations in your leaders. So, keeping it simple and straightforward and getting the basics right is a good place to start. This includes things like getting organised, being efficient in terms of how they undertake tasks, adopting best practice, doing things right the first time, making sure they turn up to meetings on time, that they follow through on any actions. So simple, and very important. Get the foundations right.

Other elements might be setting clear boundaries about hours at work, managing self to minimize stress, building good relationships, and having good interpersonal skills. These are some of the foundations and basics of leadership.

If you are not sure how to develop leadership in the people around you, start with the things that build solid foundations. You can move on to visioning, strategic thinking and strategic decision-making, and so on, once the foundations are in place.

The third thing I notice consistently, that is getting in the way of leaders developing more leaders, is “I’m too busy.” Yet, you have a clear responsibility. Let’s be honest, if you do not develop these people, you will end up doing everything yourself, and that is not leadership. It also does not create a better future.

You need to develop the people around you so that they can take on more, they become more capable and accountable, and you all elevate together.  I believe it is important that priority is given to the development of your people, to the development of your leaders, to build capability and capacity for leadership.

My dad used to tell me, “As a rule of thumb, this is how a leader should spend their time, 30% of their time with their people, 30% of their time in essential meetings, and 30% of their time doing their own important work, the work only they can do,” which leaves 10% for the administrivia.

MODEL_Leaders Focus

Now, it is a rule of thumb, but I think it provides a good guide. I would challenge many leaders about how much time they are spending with their people that is contributing to their leadership development. Is it close to 30%?

Often, I see it is far less than this.

And, what are the things that you should be doing during this time with your people?

Mentoring, modelling, and coaching. Create opportunities for them to grow their capability and to grow their accountability, and keep showing up as a leader so that you are modelling leadership.

If you keep this top of mind each day, each week, each month, then you will consistently be growing the people around you and their leadership. This will mean that you all make progress, and if you were to look back in six months’ time, you would see how far you have all come and the difference it makes to you individually, as a team and to your organisation.

I’d love to know your thoughts.

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