Developing the leaders of the future
Leadership development is essential for any organisation if you don’t want to risk losing employees with vital experience and key skills in the future. Once you have found, hired and then identified the leaders of the future, follow these strategies to secure the future of the individual and the business as a whole.
Future leaders need to have as broad an understanding of your business as possible, particularly since they may one day be making decisions that will affect far more than just their immediate colleagues or a project or two.
Build their knowledge by exposing them to as many areas of the business as is feasible and encourage and enable them to explore the wider industry. They should be aiming to have a broad knowledge of the current business and industry conditions, in addition to those predicted for the future.
Job rotation can be a good approach to allowing future leaders to experience and gain a better understanding of a variety of roles. If and when the time comes, they will then be better-placed to make decisions based upon hard facts and experience.
Challenge them often
You will not be able to assess the true potential of a future leader unless you place them in challenging situations. Positioning them in real business scenarios with problems to overcome will enable you to see their capabilities. They will have the opportunity to hone their own creative and critical thinking skills and to add to their professional armoury.
Successful outcomes will boost their confidence and vindicate your confidence in their ability and recognition of their potential. This, in turn, should lead to the strengthening of their commitment to your business.
Nurture without smothering
It can be tempting to try to create future leaders based solely upon your own ideas and ideals, but constantly interfering in problem-solving situations will not demonstrate that you have confidence or trust in a future leader.
Ensuring that each individual knows that there is a strong support network in place and plenty of guidance available should they need it is far more likely to lead to a positive future outcome.
A mentor can help to ensure that a would-be leader knows exactly where they can go if they need professional guidance, advice or support. This may be a senior employee, a professional who is working somewhere else, or a retired executive.
A dedicated Mentoring Scheme will allow for the structured development of this form of relationship and don’t forget about the benefits that can be gained by training future leaders as to how best to mentor and coach others.
A major part of leadership development is feedback. Without it, employees cannot improve on their performance, learn from mistakes, or feel appreciated and valued based upon their successes.
The requirement to provide feedback will also ensure that you keep abreast of their development, highlighting issues early and helping them to fill any skills gaps or change the pace of their development as necessary.
Whilst appraising them, it can also be useful to assess yourself. You are supposed to be leading by example, after all.
A reward is a tangible sign that you have recognised the progression made by your future leader and works best if it’s tailored to the individual. It could be a financial incentive or some form of stake in the company. Visible progression may equally include the offer of a new job title or the addition of responsibilities within their current role.