One Way to Grow a Leader

It sounds odd but one of the best methods a leader has for growing future leaders is to not lead. Well at least not lead the way most people think of leading which is to be out front showing the way. 

 

What I really mean is to lead from the rear. Push your future leaders out front and see what they can do. 

 

If your goal as a leader is to grow more leaders (that should most certainly be one of your goals as a leader) then you must first understand that leadership can’t really be taught, it must be experienced. You can tell your followers what leadership characteristics are important, you can talk about making good decisions and the sacrifices that Authentic Leaders make but you can’t build a leader with words alone. 

 

So from time to time you must allow your future leaders to lead today. Right now, ready or not here they come! They may make mistakes along the way but you’ll be there to help them fix it. Notice, and this is key, I didn’t say you’ll be there to fix it for them, I said you’ll be there to help them fix it. 

 

Sometimes you may even see the mistake coming but you’ll let it happen anyway, just so your future leader can learn from it. I wouldn’t suggest sitting back and watching a serious mistake just happen but if the mistake involves only minor consequences then use it as a teaching opportunity. 

 

Your future leaders are far more likely to learn from a mistake they had to fix than they are to learn from a mistake you didn’t let happen. 

 

Not allowing your future leaders to take the helm from time to time is like planting grass seed with no intention of ever watering it. It may always have potential but everyone knows it will never be a yard the kids can play in.


Sometimes, maybe even often, the best thing a leader can do to grow future leaders is to simply get the heck out of their way. Give ‘em a push and stand back, lead from the rear and watch your leaders of tomorrow grow.

 

Who is Leading Who?

One of the main responsibilities of a leader is to fire their people! Not actually fire them but fire them up. 

 

Fire them up as in motivate them, challenge them, coach them, help them grow and help them succeed, again and again. If you’re in a leadership position and you’re not doing those things on a daily basis then you are simply not leading. 

 

If you’re in a leadership position and you’re not actually leading then you’re hurting the people you’re supposed to be helping. You’re also not helping the organization that has placed you into that leadership position and provided you with the opportunity to lead. 

 

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your position makes you a leader. The only thing, the one and only thing that makes you a leader is leading. If you find yourself in a leadership position while lacking the skills required to truly lead then it is YOUR responsibility to seek out the help and training that you need to be a successful leader. 

 

Don’t wait for someone else to make you a leader, don’t expect the help you need to come to you. If you’re going to lead others then you must first lead yourself so lead yourself to the coaching you need to become a true leader.

 

If you’re following someone in a leadership position who lacks the skills to lead then you have three choices. 

 

You could just complain about it. You could point out their failings at every opportunity and become a drag on the entire organization. I’ve done that and it didn’t really work out well for anyone, especially me. 

 

You could, and should, attempt to lead up. By that I mean help fill the gaps of the person who is supposed to be leading you. You’ve no doubt already identified those gaps so try to use your own strengths to minimize the challenges those gaps cause within your company or organization. 

 

I’ll warn you that you may not get the recognition you deserve for leading up. Some people in your organization might even call you a suck up or worse. Even the person who is supposed to be leading you may be a bit leery about your motives but you’ll be doing the right thing. I can say with a high degree of certainty that doing the right thing will eventually pay off; it might take longer than you want but you can’t go wrong by doing right. 

 

The third option you have is to flee. Just leave, go find employment elsewhere. This is not as good an option as it may seem. While you left a problem behind you have no guarantee that you’re not just walking into another one. You also slow your own development by just leaving when the going gets a little tough. 

 

You may get lucky and join an organization that provides you with a true leader who works hard to develop and mentor you. If that’s the case then you’ve truly struck gold. The problem I have is with the luck part; I simply don’t like depending on luck for my success. 

 

I think most successful people would tell you that they made their success, they didn’t just luck into it. 

 

So I’ve written a bit here to leaders and the people who would follow them. I also want to say something to a third group. That would be the folks who put people who can’t lead into leadership positions. 

 

The truth is most organizations were able to “get away” with that for a long time. There used to be plenty of followers to go around and if an organization lost a few here and there they just plugged in some new people. 

 

Not anymore!

 

One of the key considerations an organization must make these days is who is leading who. If you have good young talent being led by a non-leader in a leadership position that good young talent will leave. That’s not a guess, that’s not a maybe, they will be gone, period. And they are getting harder to replace by the day. 

 

Whether you’re in Human Relations or another senior position within your organization, if you’re responsible for placing people into leadership positions then you better make sure you’re putting actual leaders into those positions. 

 

There is almost no bigger waste in business today than giving a bright, motivated potential superstar in your organization to a person in a leadership position who lacks the ability to help that bright, motivated individual achieve success.

 

There will always be some leaders who are better than others. You need to be certain that your best people are being led by your best leaders. That’s the reality of the business world in which we live today; no organization can afford to have their top people led by people who are not leaders.


You may want to consider dealing with it before it’s dealt with for you. 


How to Build People

Leadership is about people, and people only.

You manage things; budgets, inventories, and plans but you lead people. The ultimate goal of leading people should be building them and helping them succeed.

One of the biggest obstacles to building people is time. People development requires time, and most people in leadership positions are incredibly busy people. The speed of business is increasing by the day and with that speed comes a bushel of urgent tasks. The problem is, urgent things are very often not the most important thing you can be doing. They also are frequently not the most productive thing you could be doing.

In my perhaps not so humble opinion building people is one of the most productive actions a leader can take. But for too many leaders the urgent stuff gets in the way. It’s called the tyranny of the urgent. It prevents well intentioned leaders from doing the important things that offer a high return on their time investment.

If you’re a leader who sees developing your people as an expense of your time then you likely won’t take or find the time required to build them. However, if you see developing your people as an investment, an investment of your time, then you are likely to find or make the time required to build them.

So how exactly do you invest this time you’ve worked so hard to find?

Well, you invest it in getting to know you’re people, in understanding their motivations and how you can help them stay engaged. You invest time to show them how much you care. You invest time to demonstrate to your people how they make a difference. 

Some leaders say their people are their most important asset, successful leaders don’t waste time saying…. they use their time showing.

Showing your people that they are worth your time is the fastest and most effective way to build your people. Don’t be a “say” leader, be a “show” leader and start building your people today.

Transformational Leadership

One of the eight major leadership theories is known as the Relationship Theory of Leadership, also known as Transformational Leadership. Transformational leaders motivate and inspire people by helping team members see the importance of their role within the organization. These leaders are focused on the performance of team members and also want to help each person fulfill his or her potential. Leaders with this style often have high ethical and moral standards.

I am a big fan of and believer in Transformational Leadership. 

I believe in Transformational Leadership because transformational leaders leave something of value behind after they are gone. They leave more leaders. 

Transactional Leaders have high but reasonable expectations for their people. They inspire them to put forth their best effort because it is simply the right thing to do. They help their people through coaching and mentoring to achieve extraordinary outcomes and to develop their own leadership skills. In short, they help ordinary people accomplish the extraordinary.

Transformational leaders help followers grow by responding to their followers’ needs and by empowering them to make decisions. These leaders help to align the objectives and goals of the individual followers with the goals and objectives of the team and even the larger organization.

Researchers have found that this style of leadership indeed has the desired positive effect on people. “Research evidence clearly shows that groups led by transformational leaders have higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders,” explained psychologist and leadership expert Ronald E. Riggio in an article appearing on the Psychology Today website. 

Transformational Leadership reinforces the importance of truly caring for the people you lead. Transformational Leadership requires that the leader invest a part of themselves in their people and that they care as much (or more) about the success of their people as they do their own.

Transformational Leaders fully understand that ultimately their own success is completely dependent upon the success of their people. Virtually every action they take and every word they speak reflects that understanding. 

The effort required to be a Transformational Leader is substantial but so are the rewards. Anyone can build stuff but it takes a special kind of person to build people, especially people who themselves become leaders.

Transformational Leadership is a rewarding style of leadership and if the leaders you help build eventually build leaders of their own then the rewards can go on indefinitely. 

Now that’s what I call leadership! 

 

When to Stop Investing in People

I frequently speak with groups on the topic of leadership. Sometimes the groups are just too large to have a real two-way conversation but once in a while they are small enough to allow for a real dialogue to take place. Those are my favorite presentations.

Last week was one of those smaller interactions. One of the questions I received was as serious, challenging and complicated as a question can get. 

The question came during a segment in which I was speaking about the difference between a management mindset and the mindset of a leader. A management mindset thinks “I have a person working for me who isn’t getting the job done. I better spend some time on them.” A leadership mindset thinks, “I have a person working with me who isn’t getting the job done, I better invest some time with them.”

Leaders see people as an investment, not an expense.

Let’s be clear on this, leadership is about people. We don’t lead companies, we don’t lead budgets, we don’t lead buildings or inventories, we manage them. We lead people!

People don’t want to be managed, they want leadership. You’ll hear people complain every single day about being micro-managed but you’ve probably never heard a person say the word, micro-led. 

Leaders invest their time, experience, knowledge and even a piece of themselves in the development of their people. The success of their people is as important to them as their own success. If their people fail they take at least partial ownership in that failure.

But…

There does come a time when a leader has done all that they can do and still one of their people is just not progressing. Investing in people is much more complicated than any other investment, there is much more at stake. But just like any other investment that doesn’t work out, at some point in time you just have to cut your losses. 

The question I was asked was, “When is it time to stop investing in a person and let them go?”

THAT is one big question. I hate failing at anything, I hate failing with people development even more. I’m supposed to be good at it, I’m supposed to help people perform better. When I don’t then I’ve failed. So the decision to stop investing is a big one… but it’s not a hard one.

Here’s how I answered the question.

I stop investing when the good of the one begins to outweigh the good of the many. Simply stated, when the time required to help just one person grow begins to negatively impact and limit the amount of time I can invest with the rest of the team, I have to stop investing in the “one.”

This is particularly true when there seems to be little or no return on that investment. No leader can sacrifice the “many” for the “one.” 

Letting someone go, demoting them or reassigning them is a terrible decision to have to make, but leaders make that decision. Leaders do not let their ego get in the way, they admit, that for whatever reason, this is “one” they just can’t help develop. 

Leaders do what needs to be done, that’s one way, one very big way, that you can tell they are a leader.

 

Today’s Biggest Leadership Challenge – Part One

Leadership challenges vary by organization. Big organizations have different leadership challenges than small ones. Mature organizations have outgrown some of the leadership challenges that persist in newer organizations. 

In general however this is the biggest leadership challenge facing all organizations today: finding tomorrow’s leaders.

No matter how effective a leader you may be, if you do not at least help find and develop your successor then you will not have completely succeeded as a leader. You may have accomplished great things as a leader but if your accomplishments do not outlast you then you will not be remembered as a great leader. 

The best and most likely way to ensure your accomplishments outlast your tenure as the leader is to develop the next generation of leadership within your organization. 

But that’s not as easy as it used to be for two main reasons.

The first reason is this: The average employee today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years, according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the expected tenure of the workforce’s youngest employees is about half that. In fact, ninety-one percent of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years.

There are many reasons for this job-hopping behavior but the biggest seems to be speedy career advancement. Job-hopping allows many younger employees the opportunity to “promote” themselves without the “dues paying” that older employees endured. 

This is NOT a knock on younger employees, they are every bit as committed, intelligent, and hard working as employees in any age group. They just (rightly) value life balance more than employees of older generations. 

But job-hopping also gives them a skewered view of what Authentic Servant Leadership, real leadership, looks like. They see “slivers” of leadership but not the whole picture. They simply don’t stay in any one place long enough to become well developed leaders because they don’t stay anyplace long enough to develop a mentored relationship with an Authentic Leader. The more career moves they make the more gaps they are likely to have in their leadership ability. 

Today’s leaders need to identify younger employees with leadership potential sooner and begin a mentoring relationship that will motivate them to see their potential where they are. Their personal motives are no different than any other generation; they NEED to know they matter and they need to know they can make a difference. 

Far, far more employees will leave the workforce in the next 15 years than will join it. Organizations hoping for future success are unlikely to achieve it without a strong mentoring program that encourages future leaders to stay where they are at. It doesn’t matter whether you lead a huge organization or a 5 person company, you will be impacted by the shrinking workforce. 

Don’t allow your organization to get behind the curve on this issue, put a mentoring program in place today.

In Part Two of “Today’s Biggest Leadership Challenge” we’ll look at the second issue hindering the development of future leaders, micro-managing. But for those of you who believe you are micro-managed don’t get your hopes up, you may be more responsible for this than you would like to admit. 

 
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Your Most Expensive Employee

7218CE00-05C5-4C4A-9644-BEAC2B76D45A.pngIf you’re managing a business then keeping track of expenses is probably high on your list of priorities. One of your biggest expenditures is likely to be compensation for your employees. I’m sure you know what you’re paying your people but do you know what they are costing you?

I can’t be sure who your most expensive employee is but I do know it’s likely one of the types of individuals I describe below.

The first is a “manager” of people. That in itself is a problem because people will not be managed. People resist being managed because they are people, they expect leadership, not management.

A manager was explaining to me the challenges of managing a particular new employee. When I suggested that they try leading this particular individual instead of managing them I was more than a little surprised and disappointed by their response. 

The manager said employees must be managed before they can be led. They must have the “spirit” managed out of them because people with “spirit” won’t follow anyone. Apparently only people with their “spirit” broken can be “tamed” enough to follow. 

I found it almost impossible to believe that anyone could think that way. It was medieval leadership at it’s worst. 

It’s also incredibly expensive these days. Disengaged employees cost organizations a ton of money and one of the fastest ways to cause them to disengage is to break their spirit. Make them feel unimportant and they quickly become unproductive too.

No organization that intends to last can afford medieval leadership or management.

The second type of very expensive employee is the know it all manager. They know everything they need to know and they have nothing left to learn. 

I talked to a manager a while back who had just lost a very talented team member. When I asked if they had learned anything in the exit interview about why the employee left I was again surprised and disappointed by the answer. 

They said that they had nothing to learn from a quitter. They weren’t even interested in looking at the exit interview because “people come and go” and “there is nothing that a manager can do about it.” 

The second part might be right… there is nothing a manger can do about it. 

But a leader can! 

The odds are pretty high that if the employee had felt led they may not have left in the first place. But even if they had decided to go a leader would want to understand why and what they as a leader could have done differently to help the employee want to stay. 

Organizations invest a small fortune in recruiting and training their talent. Then they turn them over to a manager who treats them like a piece of equipment; the same as the copy machine.

If you intend for your organization to stand the test of time then you need to invest as much in developing your leaders as you do in developing the people they lead.

Do not allow your leaders to manage people, teach them to lead and they will be a bargain, no matter how much you pay them.