Leadership is foundational to building a successful company. After all, companies of all kinds rely on people to get the work done, to serve customers, and to drive productivity and success. Those people need strong leaders to provide them with goals, direction, feedback, coaching, and counseling.
Unfortunately, too often leadership skills are taken for granted or overlooked entirely. The fact of the matter is that many leaders don’t come into their positions with the background, experience, knowledge, and training needed to be successful in these roles. You need to be proactive in developing strong leaders to get the results you’re looking for.
What You Should Teach Your Leaders
To be effective, your leaders—whether new or seasoned—need to have a solid foundation of core skills required to be successful in their role. They need to have solid communication skills, including the ability to manage change and conflict. They need to know how to delegate effectively and how to hold themselves and others accountable. They need to know how to empower and motivate employees for maximum engagement. They need to exhibit professionalism and need to be adept at building trusting relations both inside and outside the organization.
Effective leaders will yield big results for your company. They’ll build a strong team of engaged and loyal employees to help stem turnover and reduce the costs related to hiring and onboarding new employees. They’ll organize and coordinate work to maximize productivity and drive down costs. They’ll offer counsel and course correction when things don’t go as planned, or employees need new, different or more direction. And they’ll maintain a strong focus on the customer and service to both employees and customers to boost the bottom line.
In short, they’ll need a wide range of solid leadership skills that will set the stage for their—and your company’s —success. Here’s a look at some of the critical skills and competencies that today’s leaders need.
The Ability to Innovate Instead of Micromanaging
When leaders come into their role they may be tempted to fall back into the behaviors that led to their success. But leaders need to be focused on getting work done through others and not on doing it themselves. Their role should be focused on innovation and improvement and not micromanaging the work of their employees.
Micromanagement is a waste of leaders’ time and a demotivating factor for most employees. It demonstrates a lack of trust in the ability of team members, as well as a lack of confidence in their own leadership abilities.
A Focus on Authenticity
Effective leaders are authentic. Their staff members trust them and feel confident turning to them for advice, information, and feedback. They mean what they say, and say what they mean. They create a culture of transparency and are comfortable sharing their own experiences, even experiences when they have been challenged—even unsuccessful. They’re not afraid to show their human side and their employees respect them for that.
A Commitment to Using Praise and Encouragement
Employees thrive when provided with praise and encouragement. Successful leaders know how to offer specific praise and encouragement that lets employees know exactly what they’re doing to contribute to the department and the organization’s success. Thanking employees for their hard work, recognizing and rewarding those who go above and beyond help to make employees feel cared for. Leaders who use praise and encouragement effectively create a culture and climate that boosts engagement and productivity.
The Ability to Be Fair and Understanding
Effective leaders make an effort to ensure that they are fair and understanding with all employees. Their actions support equity and balance, avoiding the appearance of favoritism or, on the flip side, scapegoating. Employees want to know that they will have the ability to be heard, especially during times of conflict or change, and that their leaders will listen openly to their input, opinions, and concerns before making decisions.
An Emphasis on Building Drive
Effective leaders have a strong work ethic and take steps to develop that same hard-working work ethic and drive among their employees. Employees look to their leaders to set the example and serve as a model for the types of behaviors they wish to see.
How To Develop Leaders
There are a variety of things that organizations can do to help develop leaders. Providing a wide array of opportunities and experiences for leaders to both learn and apply what they’ve learned helps them build the skills they need to succeed.
Create Coaching and Mentoring Opportunities
Leaders can learn from others—and from coaching others. Creating opportunities for leaders to mentor, and be mentored by others, exposes them to new ideas and ways of approaching and solving problems.
Offer Opportunities for Peer Development
Leaders have different skills, competencies, and areas of expertise. Offering opportunities for peer development allows them to share what they know and provides learning opportunities for others.
Provide Opportunities for Leadership Development
Giving potential and new leaders opportunities for leadership development by assigning them to lead projects and task forces, or to take on new assignments, is a great way to give them real-world exposure to the issues and challenges that leaders face.
Develop Your High Potential Employees
As you identify employees with high potential, they can be groomed for future leadership positions. Beginning leadership development early helps to build a strong bench of potential leaders as new opportunities emerge.
Invest in Leadership Training for All Levels of Leadership
Finally, investing in training for future, new and seasoned leaders will yield big benefits. It offers an opportunity for them to learn from leadership experts, to interact with each other to share best practices and to practice and apply what they’ve learned. Through “The Leadership Journey,” leaders will develop and implement action plans and be accountable for completing those action plans and achieving results.