Can leadership be developed?
While some individuals may have natural leadership abilities, most people can learn and develop the skills and qualities necessary to become effective leaders. Leadership development programmes, mentoring and coaching can all be used to develop leadership within an organisation. By investing in developing leadership, organisations can create a robust talent pipeline, retain top performers and improve their long-term competitiveness in the marketplace.
The importance of leaders in your company
Effective leadership can make a critical difference in the success or failure of a company. They set the direction and vision of the company, defining its purpose, goals and values. They create a realistic and achievable vision for the company that also inspires employees and creates a sense of belonging. Crucially, not only do they develop that vision, but they also develop strategies to help that vision become a reality.
Effective leaders are also skilled at motivating and inspiring their team members to work towards common goals. They build strong relationships with their employees and create a positive work environment. The best leaders lead by example, exhibiting the kind of positive behaviours that they expect from their team members.
Leaders make the key decisions that will determine the future success or otherwise of the business. They need to be able to identify problems, spot opportunities, take corrective action when necessary, consider multiple perspectives and analyse data. Often they will be required to go out on a limb and make unpopular decisions that they believe will benefit the long-term health of the company.
Leaders foster a culture of innovation in the organisation, encouraging employees to take risks, experiment and try out new ideas. They are able to recognise when older ways of operating are no longer working and suggest ways of rectifying the problem. To help inform their decision making they take account of new thinking, thought leadership and emergent trends to ensure that their company can take advantage of evolving market opportunities.
Different leaders will have a range of strengths and weaknesses, which is why ensuring the leadership team is made up of a complementary range of individuals is important. Effective leadership requires both individual excellence and effective teamwork.
While leadership is all important to the success of an organisation, attracting and retaining the best talent can be challenging. That’s why having effective strategies within the organisation for developing leadership is vital.
What can organisations do to identify and develop leadership within their organisation?
How to identify leaders in your company
While many companies will expend a great deal of time and money in trying to attract the best talent to their organisation, all too often they neglect to identify and nurture the talent they already have.
Companies that are successful in building long-term success are able to spot and develop leadership within their organisation, providing opportunities for talented and ambitious individuals to develop their skills and acquire the knowledge they require to advance within the company.
Crucially, companies that provide these kinds of pathways to developing leadership internally have a better track record at retaining talent than those that do not.
How can companies identify talent within their organisation?
Observe behaviours in the workplace
Firstly, watch how people interact with others in the workplace, how they handle difficult situations, and how they communicate with their colleagues. Look for those who inspire others, show initiative, and take ownership of their work.
Leaders tend to have a positive attitude and are optimistic about the future for themselves and the business. They show initiative to start new projects and are willing to suggest improvements to existing processes. They will also take responsibility for their actions, being willing to admit mistakes and give praise to others who help the team achieve their goals.
Potential leaders will be collaborative individuals, able to work effectively with a range of people while acting with transparency throughout.
Look for those who mentor and coach colleagues
Many future leaders will already be showing leadership skills in their current roles. Future leaders are often those who show a willingness to help their colleagues, taking the initiative to offer their support and guidance. They are active listeners who ask open-ended questions and make an effort to understand the perspective of their colleagues.
Potential leaders exhibit a degree of patience and are able to offer and receive constructive feedback. They try to find ways of resolving disputes and disagreements in a mutually respectful and beneficial way.
Providing structured ways in which employees who exhibit these qualities can mentor and coach their colleagues is not only a way to use their talents but can also be used as a means to assess their future leadership potential.
Regular performance evaluations will play a key role in identifying future leaders. Part of any performance evaluation for the pool of talent who may become the leaders of the future should include metrics that assess key leadership qualities.
Good leaders will be consistent, delivering and exceeding expectations regularly, and come to be relied upon by their colleagues as a result. A future leader will be dependable. They consistently produce high-quality work, paying attention to detail and taking pride in their work.
They take initiative, are accountable for their actions, and will be quick to take corrective actions when necessary. They will also exhibit a range of practical personal management skills such as strong organisational abilities to meet deadlines and other expectations.
Analyse decision-making skills
Decision-making is a critical part of effective leadership and potential leaders will exhibit a range of qualities in how they approach the decision-making process. They will show an ability to think clearly and logically, approaching decisions in a calm and rational manner no matter how complex the situation or the time constraints.
They will be willing to adjust their decisions based on changing circumstances and information. They will work collaboratively and be willing to take different perspectives on board. They will also show a degree of strategic thinking in how they approach problems.
Consider their communication skills
The ability to communicate in a range of mediums clearly and effectively is important for successful leadership. Leaders must be able to communicate their vision, goals, and expectations clearly to their team members and stakeholders, showing a degree of clarity in how they communicate.
As well as being effective speakers, they will also be active listeners and able to encourage others to express their opinions. They will be empathetic, and able to understand the concerns and different approaches that other people may bring to the table.
They will have a degree of flexibility in their communication style and will be able to adjust their tone and approach based on the needs of their audience. They will also be adept at the nonverbal aspects of communication such as body language, tone of voice and facial expressions.
While all of the above seems extensive it’s important to remember that few would-be leaders will meet all of those criteria. Instead, consider whether there are individuals within your organisation who show general competence across a range of metrics and potentially exceptional abilities in one or more areas. For instance, a reliable employee who always goes above and beyond what’s required may also be an excellent listener and support for their colleagues. Someone may have shown an ability to make decisions under stress or to step up in terms of authority when required.
Few people arrive at leadership positions with all of the skills that they will need in their new role. Coaching, mentoring and training programmes can all be used to further develop the leadership skills of promising individuals within your organisation.
How to develop your leaders
Developing leadership ensures that there is a pipeline of talent available to take on key leadership roles as they become available. It is a comprehensive process that combines the ability to identify leadership candidates, nurture a culture of leadership across the organisation, and provide the practical means by which ambitious individuals can develop their leadership skills.
It’s important to remember that to develop leadership, an organisation needs to make a long-term commitment. Developing effective leaders takes time, effort and resources, as well as a company culture that is committed to giving talent a practical pathway to leadership roles. Even after individuals have developed their leadership skills, they still require ongoing support and development to continue to grow and improve. This may involve ongoing coaching and mentoring, as well as access to learning and development opportunities.
Organisations with a proven track record at developing leadership will usually have a leadership development programme in place that people can access at various stages of their careers. It will be available to people who show promise, as well as those who are already in leadership roles. Organisations that are serious about their future leadership don’t ask can leadership be developed, instead, they take practical steps to equip their talent with the skills they need to become highly effective leaders.
At Leadership Success, our unique leadership development programmes are tailored to the needs of the individual. Our courses are accessible and scalable and use a variety of methodologies and approaches to achieve results. They can deliver results for your organisation, turning promising candidates into the highly effective and self-reflective leaders of the future.
To find out more about our programmes and how we can help, get in touch with one of our expert coaches today.