As company owners, if we want to grow our enterprise into something that has size, depth, staying power, and value, we can’t do it alone. We need a team to help us . . . a team of leaders. But how do we develop our team? How do we select who will be on it? Do we pick the people who have the most experience? Not necessarily. A professional athlete may have honed his playing skills over many years, but that doesn’t mean he would make a great coach.
Simon Sinek is a business author and lecturer who we have referenced here many times because he’s a favorite of ours. In a discussion about leadership, he points out most careers take a similar trajectory:
- We’re hired to do a particular task.
- We get some training on the tools and processes we need to do the task we’ve been hired to do.
- If we work hard and use the training we’ve been given effectively, we’re successful.
- Because we’ve been successful at doing the task we were hired to do, we get promoted into a leadership position where we’re expected to lead a group of people who are doing the same task that we did.
The problem is, while we know how to do the task, we don’t know how to lead others who are doing the task. The original training we were given did not include leadership training. Apparently, we were supposed to have picked that up along the way by osmosis. While some companies, particularly larger ones, will offer some form of leadership training, most don’t. As a result, too many leadership positions are being held by micro-managers who are leaders in name only.
For more on how to identify and groom the members of your leadership team, please continue reading below.
“The real job of leadership is not to take charge. The real job of leadership is to take care of the people in our charge.” ~ Simon Sinek
Leadership is a skill like any other. It can be taught and it can be learned. However, not everyone will have the same aptitude to become really good at it. Likewise, just because someone learns the basics of playing the violin doesn’t mean they have the talent to become a virtuoso performer. How then do we identify the people we want to be on our leadership team . . . maybe not today, but at some point in the future? After all, most people don’t walk around with “Leader” stamped on their forehead. So how do we spot them? What do we look for? As you might guess, this is the hard part.
In his book, “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business,” author Gino Wickman offers some clues on how to start sorting through who in your organization has real leadership potential and who does not. He advises looking for someone who:
- “gets it.” That is, someone who has a clear understanding of the role and how that role is to be played within your culture.
- “wants it.” Meaning someone who genuinely likes the duties, responsibilities, and activities that go along with a leadership role . . . not someone who is interested only in status. And not someone who is acting out of some sense of obligation to move up the corporate ladder because that’s what we’re all expected to do in this country.
- “has the capacity to do it.” Someone who has the time, intellect, skill, knowledge, and emotional IQ to lead effectively.
As we’ve said, this is the hard part. Figuring out who “gets it, wants it, and has the capacity to do it” requires a lot of subjective, qualitative judgements about “soft” skills . . . much tougher than determining if someone has the technical skills we need. But still, it’s really no different than what we have to do when we’re trying to figure out if a prospective new hire will be a good fit for our culture.
Now for the easy part. Not necessarily cheap, but relatively easy.
Once we’ve determined who we want on our leadership team, we still have to provide leadership training for them. Ideally, leadership training would be a continuous, long-term process, but if not, it needs to at least give participants a good grounding in the basics. Where to find appropriate leadership training is not a problem. When you start looking for it, it’s all around us.
- Junior colleges often offer continuing education courses on leadership.
- There are business coaches who specialize in leadership issues.
- Alternatively, you could do the coaching in-house if you have someone on staff who demonstrates strong leadership skills and who would make a good mentor.
- Check with your trade organizations. They may offer seminars or other learning opportunities aimed at leadership.
- Online you can find leadership webinars. You can also find lots of leadership video presentations on YouTube.
- There are leadership books in abundance. Business writers have written more about leadership than about any other business topic.
Don’t ignore leadership training or depend on your would-be leaders to figure it out on their own. If you’ve already got a rudimentary leadership team in place, great! Find out from them what they need to grow and develop into even stronger leaders, and get it for them. If you haven’t formed a leadership team yet, get started. First identify who you want on your team, then get them the training they need to be effective leaders. In the end, you will lead the leadership team, and the members of that team will lead everyone else. With that structure in place, your company will be able to grow to its potential.