As a high-level executive, your days are bound to be extremely busy. But no matter how hectic your schedule is, it's critical to take time to build up the individuals who will become the future leaders of your company. Grooming someone to excel in a leadership role takes time, effort and resources - and it's best done by someone with on-the-ground insights into your company's culture, goals, and aspirations.
Here's how to prepare your company's next generation of leaders.
Start Early And Think Long-term
Leadership development should be part of your company's overall growth plan. Leadership skills aren't developed overnight, and even high-level leaders brought in from other organizations will need the training to ensure that their approach is aligned with your company culture.
Actively work to build leadership skills development into the very fabric of your organization. Encourage staff to take initiative and responsibility, and give them room to be able to take action on decisions that fall under the umbrella of their current roles. This approach will help foster leadership skills at all levels of your organization, giving you a pipeline of individuals who can eventually move up into higher-level leadership roles.
Also, take time to consider what skills and knowledge serve you well as an executive. Consider ways that these same traits can be fostered in your staff. Working backward from where you are now can help provide a framework for future leaders to follow.
Share Your Know-How
If the democratization of knowledge isn't part of your company culture, it's time for that to change. Siloing off knowledge and reducing the free-flow of information is a threat to the longevity of your organization. In such contexts, a leader who leaves or retires takes their hard-won expertise with them, leaving tremendous gaps in the knowledge of those tasked to follow in their footsteps.
Instead, work to share your accumulated knowledge. Put together process documents, run workshops or start sending out a leadership newsletter. Your role is multifaceted, and it follows that these approaches will be, too. As a result, leadership skills training will combine with customer acquisition stories along with well as product and industry expertise. Yet, by distilling years of knowledge and experience into smaller, teachable moments, you'll be able to give your staff a head start on what's needed to excel as leaders.
Identify And Train Your Leadership Team
While some of the traits that make a good leader may be innate, the skills required for leadership are learned. Rather than assuming a fully fledged protege will arrive on the scene, it's crucial to identify potential leaders and actively train them for the role.
In doing so, be sure to outline the qualities you wish to see in your leaders, as well as the expectations you have for those with aspirations of stepping into a leadership role. If your prospective leaders aren't yet ready for high-level leadership, provide opportunities for them to prove themselves with challenges or special projects that involve overseeing teams or initiatives.
Complement these activities with professional development opportunities, mentorship programs, and opportunities for cross-pollination in other areas of the company. Encourage your leaders to share any takeaways or newly acquired knowledge with their teams, thus further perpetuating the cycle throughout the company.
Finally, take the time to discuss leadership pathways with your potential leaders. Performance reviews are a good time to do this, as are milestones such as launching or wrapping up a project. Use these discussions to consider how you might reshape your organization to accommodate your potential leaders - and how to overcome any potential barriers. Actively discussing future prospects with identified potential leaders will help increase retention, ensuring that efforts don't end up benefiting another organization.
Leadership Starts Now
Remember, the individuals who may one day take over your role are potentially already part of your company. Bear this in mind when hiring, and work to instill leadership skills at all levels of your organization. Even those who don't end up advancing to C-level roles will deliver more value when able to leverage the tools and skills associated with leadership approaches.
Need some help preparing a leadership development plan for your organization? Get in touch!