How to Build a Leader

Good leaders build strong followers. Great leaders build more leaders. If you’re in a leadership position and you’ve built a strong team then good for you. You’re likely a very good leader. If you haven’t developed at least a couple of people who can step right in and fill your shoes then you’re not a great leader, at least not yet.

The ability to develop leaders is a trait that all truly great leaders have. They know that if their team still needs their leadership to succeed then they have yet to fully succeed as a leader. 

Leaders who build leaders do not “spend” their time developing people. They have a totally different mindset, they “invest” their time developing people. 

They develop their people by building trust. They coach, not command. They share their experience and offer advice. They delegate tasks to teach, not to dump work. 

They tell the truth even when it’s hard. They are the model of ethical and morale character for their people. They follow through and do what they say they will do. They know that if their credibility suffers their ability to lead suffers with it. The moment they lose the morale ability to lead their ability to build a leader is gone as well. You see, only a leader can build another leader.

Leaders who build leaders take the blame but give the credit. They redefine failure and use it as a teaching tool. They inspire others to see their potential – then see it themselves and unleash the talent of their people. They let them be wrong and let THEM fix whatever problem was created by the mistake. Their people trust them enough that they feel empowered to take a well considered risk.

Leaders who build leaders divest themselves from the day-to-day problem-solving activities of the organization. Instead they choose to maximize strategic and relationship-building efforts. It’s these relationships that contribute to the forward momentum of the organization rather than causing a “bottleneck” at the leader’s office. 

Leaders who build leaders don’t badmouth, they don’t gossip. They walk the talk and take others along with them. They listen more and talk less, showing that they value the opinions of those who will lead after them. 

Leaders who build leaders are great leaders indeed. They trust themselves enough to develop people who can and will one day take their job. They have the confidence to know that their ability to develop leaders is the one characteristic that will ensure their leadership will far outlast them. 

16 thoughts on “How to Build a Leader

  1. You, like me, and most of the people reading this post, have read numerous books, articles, etc. on being a good leader. If not a great one.

    All of the principles are common sense. Like many of the things you wrote in this essay.

    So, my question is, why is it so difficult for someone to be an authentic leader?

    1. Big egos tend to block big thinking and despite what Gordon Gekko said, greed is not good. Too many leaders, or at least people in leadership positions are insulated from the “real” world by people who are afraid to tell them the truth.

      They begin to believe that they can’t be wrong and it’s that belief which destroys their authenticity.

      1. That’s yet another reason that trust is so important, without it there can be no truly “honest” feedback. Thanks for your comment, I appreciate it.

  2. This really resonates with me and the constant challenge of “upgrading talent” in our organization. What I’m not sure of is the “how”. The lessons are solid, and you can take your pick of accountability, management, and coaching methodologies available, but how do you teach a leader to build other leaders? It’s a conundrum I haven’t been able to solve and would be curious as to how you approach this in your organization.

    1. I think first you begin by hiring people who sincerely care about people. That can’t truly be taught.

      If you have people to truly care who can model the behavior required to build other leaders.

      I don’t think there’s any way possible to tell someone how to build a leader. It requires a leader who already builds leaders to show them.

  3. This blog post really resonates with me. What I’m not sure of is the “how”; how do you teach great leaders who inspire followership how to build other leaders? And what does a leader of leaders do to hold their teams accountable for building other leaders? Upgrading talent is a careful art, so I’m curious to know how you would teach this?

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