***This article is inspired by chapter 2 of John C. Maxwell’s book
“Developing the Leaders Around You” – “The Leader’s Toughest Challenge: Creating a Climate for Potential Leaders” ***
Leadership is much like gardening or farming. You must prepare and fertilize the soil, plant good seeds, continually water for growth, and pull the weeds that choke out healthy plants. It’s a never-ending, but critically important job.
If you want to ensure that the future of your organization is left in excellent hands, you must cultivate an environment for potential leaders to grow today. Leadership development takes time. It’s a process. It happens daily, not in a day. Just as gardeners and farmers must do the daily work to give their plants the best opportunity to grow and mature, so must leaders do the same for their followers if they are to become strong leaders for the future.
So, how do you help your potential leaders grow? Consider the following 5 actions suggested by John Maxwell:
1 – Expose the potential leader to people successful in his or her field.
It’s often been said that more is caught than taught. While gaining knowledge is important, seeing success in action is most powerful. Consider the roles and responsibilities of your potential leaders and then think of successful men and women who can be examples for them to imitate. These models of success may be inside or outside your organization. Keep in mind that your potential leaders may not know where to look for these people, so help them by making introductions and pointing them in the right direction.
2 – Provide a secure environment where the potential leader is free to take risks.
Security is one of our greatest desires in life. Job security feels like a fleeting reality in our world today. If you are going to raise up excellent leaders for the benefit of your organization as you move into the future, you must help your followers feel safe to try and fail. No one is perfect, so expecting anyone to be successful on the first attempt is unreasonable. Instead, give your potential leaders room to try and fail, while also giving them feedback in order to learn from their failures. This will allow them to fail forward and learn to lead well. Take the pressure off of them so they can attempt new ways to be successful in their role.
3 – Provide the potential leader with an experienced mentor.
This point is similar to #1 above. Not only do your potential leaders need to see examples of success, but they also need mentors who will invest time in their lives. You can learn from successful people at a distance (speakers, books, conferences, podcasts, etc.), but mentors provide up close and personal attention to help their mentees to achieve success. They give assignments and hold them accountable. They help them think through their challenges and point out opportunities. Mentors believe that their mentee’s success is their success so they want to do all they can to help them succeed.
4 – Provide the potential leader with the tools and resources he or she needs.
Potential leaders are typically young and/or inexperienced in their roles. They often won’t know what tools and resources will help them be successful. They may overexert themselves doing manual tasks that could be automated out of sheer ignorance of what is available to them. They may not know where to look for resources or answers to the challenges they’re facing. Remember what it was like to be in their shoes as a young or inexperienced leader. There is so much that you do today intuitively that was not intuitive when you were just starting out. Ask them what they need. Watch how they’re working and point out better ways. Share best practices. Send them to training. Hire a coach for them. Buy them books or online courses. This investment will make them better today and help them lead well into the future.
5 – Spend time and money to train the potential leader in his or her areas of need.
This point is connected to #4 above. You must invest in your potential leaders. Yes, there is a significant price to be paid for leadership development. Compare this price to what it will cost you now and in the future if you don’t train them! Your people are your most valuable assets. Just as you would invest in keeping equipment running well so it can perform optimally, you must do the same for your people. Send them to workshops. Hire outside coaches and trainers to assist your process. Create your own specific training to meet your organization’s detailed needs. Whatever you do, commit to investing in your potential leaders. This investment will pay back a high return over time. A lack of investment will cost you dearly as you won’t have the leaders needed to grow to new levels.
Leader, you have a vital task to help your potential leaders grow. Commit right now to continually and intentionally cultivating an environment of growth so your team and organization can have a pipeline full of prepared, effective, excellent leaders who can help you advance well into the future.
You can do this, but it requires great intentionality.
Until next time…make today GREAT!