Developing future leaders

By - March 16, 2016

How many times do we hear leaders say they, “can’t”… take a day off, skip a meeting or not do something because they don’t have people that can do what they do. Leaders are often stuck in the trap of success, they want to delegate, but they simply don’t have someone available when needed or the time to teach someone.  But, to be a successful leader you need to continually be working yourself out of a job by developing people to take over responsibilities.

There are many programs out there for training leaders but can leadership be attained by simply sitting in a class? Many of the successful leaders we work with attribute their success to mentors and prior bosses that took the time to shepherd them through their careers at different phases and role models by which they have shaped their careers.

As we develop succession plans, or are simply mentoring the next generation there are some key areas of focus that seem to be prevalent in many organizations:

  • Creating a safe place: As a control freak, I’ve had to learn the hard lesson of letting go, it’s okay that people may not do it, “my way.” It’s perfectly okay that the font is Calibri instead of Arial given the work product is still sound.  Letting people have the space to make mistakes (besides font choices) is necessary to grow.  Using those times as learning lessons and not becoming an unintentional de-motivator is important.
  • Selecting candidates: Choosing people that seek out opportunities to learn, that have a desire to step up to the next challenge is easy.  Sometimes, it is the people that are a bit more hesitant, that make the best leaders. By being humble in who you are and understanding you can only achieve greatness through your team makes for an important foundational lesson.  When I was in college, I worked for a wealthy family and the, “Mrs.” always did tasks with me.  One day I asked “why?,” she did this when she was paying me and she said that, “she would never ask someone to do something that she wouldn’t do.” Many of the leaders we work with today have a similar philosophy.
  • Providing a voice: As we are developing leaders, often we are developing ourselves as well.  We often propose multi-functional teams to gain broader perspectives on issues and processes within organization and by doing the same with our leadership candidates, listening to different perspectives and truly being collaborative will allow us to continue to grow as well.
  • Mentoring Leaders: Leadership development isn’t a single-threaded activity, it takes a number of different perspectives including multiple disciplines and leaders within an organization to contribute to the development of our candidates.  To develop their own style, and not just create try to replicate you, people need to be exposed to a number of different leaders, situations and venues to develop their own style.

Developing leaders isn’t a quick three step process, and it isn’t necessarily successful with each candidate, it requires commitment from both people and a passion for what you are doing. To learn more about how RSM can assist you with your other business needs, contact RSM’s management consulting professionals at 800.274.3978 or email us.


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