Strong leaders are a valuable resource for any organization – whether that is a business, a club, or even a community. Leaders provide groups with vision and motivation, they influence people, help teams stay organized, and take responsibility for the outcome of their projects. A good leader makes a team stronger. A bad leader can ruin morale, cause arguments to break out, and put a project well behind schedule.
Leadership comes naturally to some people, but for others, it is a learned skill. The best leaders are often people that are gradually trained up and given more responsibility, even though they did not actively seek out a leadership position.
The Importance of Leadership Development Planning
Providing leadership development opportunities to members of your team is a good way to plan for the future. Even if you aren’t looking for someone to take over the team today, having several people with leadership skills can be valuable, especially if those people are good at working as a team.
Leadership isn’t all about “being the boss” – leadership can involve taking the initiative, communicating, making decisions, and supporting those less experienced. Helping people develop basic leadership skills can improve their confidence, and make them better at their day to day jobs.
Planning for the Future
Before you start working on your leadership development plan, you need to think about the
direction your team is going, and you need to really understand the policiesand systems you already have in place. It’s all too common for leaders to take a nice-sounding mission statement, and try to turn that into a plan, but feel-good statements such as “Treat people with respect” and “Encourage initiative” are only marginally useful if they are not fully understood and explained. How much initiative is OK, and at what point would an employee be considered to have gone too far if they ignored orders and took the initiative to do something a different way? Once you have an idea of your company’s vision, you can start planning your new team.
Consider the following:
- How many leaders do you want per team?
- What skills do you want those people to have?
- Will your chosen leaders be truly representative of the people within your organization?
When you have an idea of your leadership team in mind, you need to set leadership development goals for the organization. Think about the strengths and weaknesses of your team, and base your plan on the problem areas that you have identified. If you have noticed that some employees have limited IT skills, perhaps you should offer coaching for them. If people struggle to work as a team, then executive coaching may be required. Some senior staff members that have traditionally worked in the background could be offered the chance to be trained in how to lead meetings or take on other leadership responsibilities.
In many cases, training can be delivered on the job. Employees could be assigned mentors, or given the opportunity to shadow senior staff members (or do a job exchange) one day per week. For more intensive skill-based training, however, workshops or leadership development retreats are often the most effective option. These intensive training courses offer learners the opportunity to focus on their own weak areas, plan future development, and learn new skills. They can also provide a big boost to morale.
Each Individual is Different
Taking the first steps towards becoming a leader can be scary. To make it easier for people to fulfil their potential, make it clear that acting like a leader is both expected and encouraged.
When it comes to offering promotions, or further training, try to recruit internally, offering training if you identify a candidate that is almost ready, but a little rough around the edges. If you cannot find someone internally, then by all means bring someone new into the organization and integrate them into the team as quickly as possible.
While you are building the next generation of leaders, don’t neglect your own skills. It is important that you lead by example, and continue to push the limits of your own potential.