Today, the business world is an uncertain place to be and employers urgently need to nurture the next generation of managers to effectively lead enterprises forward. Strong leadership can help an organisation to weather the toughest of times and inspire and engage a workforce. Often, the most effective leadership comes from employees who have been “grown” within the business. These are the people who understand the company’s values and goals, as well as the professional and financial realities, and who are best placed to lead it to thrive. However, growing effective leaders is challenging and is a process that needs to be carefully managed.
Engage potential leaders early on
It’s a mistake to focus only on more senior staff when it comes to nurturing leaders – this is a process that needs to start earlier for most businesses. For example, there is often a perception of millennial employees as lazy and entitled and so they may not be considered for leadership. However, the reality is that younger generations have as much to offer but may need to be engaged differently. Millennials tend to look for opportunities to make a difference rather than achieve status, for example, and are more likely to need clarity and want to be heard. An early leadership programme that uses role progression and learning and mentoring support designed to millennial tastes could reap positive results further down the line.
Accelerated development can be risky
It may be tempting to accelerate development for potentially impressive candidates but this is where the risk of wearing them out begins to arise. It’s a good idea to gradually move someone from one “stretch” role to another so that they are learning and growing by moving outside of their comfort zone with each one. However, if this is done too quickly, or the leaps between roles are too wide, someone may end up feeling completely overwhelmed. If potential leaders are constantly having to rely on their resilience and always completely out of their depth because development is just too fast then they may end up burning out.
The path to leadership may not be a straight line
It’s important to establish a career track for those interested in, and capable of, leadership. However, it’s also crucial to ensure that people feel able to choose their own path to a certain extent. If potential leaders feel that there is no other option at your business but to remain on the defined track if they want to reach a leadership position they may simply leave and go to another employer where some deviation is more acceptable.
Allowing for rounded development is crucial
The most effective leaders are those who have learned to cope with failure, who understand teamwork, who have acquired management skills – as opposed to being taught them – and who have had the chance to learn from their seniors. Those who arrive in a leadership position with these skills and experiences tend to be better able to cope with the challenges of the role. If you’re keen to make space for leaders like this within your organisation then you need to allow for a rounded development that doesn’t miss out key development stages and challenges, such as team-building and dealing with a range of different people.