Insight

Real leaders create future leaders

September 2016


Dr Stephen Brown, an Australian educator, made this simple and powerful statement. It gets right to the heart of the leadership issue: you may be a leader by virtue of position and by virtue of having direct reports but do you have leaders working for you who are mentoring and coaching and producing leaders?

In this article we will explore some ways of helping to develop future leaders.

Teach someone your job

A young woman I know well works in the advertising industry. From the beginning of her work experience, it was clear that she not only had to learn her job and perform well, she also could not be promoted until she had taught someone her job. And she had to teach her job well enough so that if she was promoted she was released to do her new job.

Her first performance review was one of the best and most thorough performance reviews I have ever seen. It was a coaching document all on its own. It not only addressed how she was performing in many different aspects of her job but also how she was mentoring her direct report, a summer intern performing the most junior role in the organisation.

Encourage the sharing of knowledge

Our clients in the mining industry are fanatical about safety. One of the requirements of first-line supervisors, was to lead a safety-share every morning and at the beginning of every shift. A safety-share is a way to model awareness, inform about the work that the team is to tackle that day, and to create a team that helps each other to be safe. The supervisors also ask team members to contribute a safety-share of their own and everyone takes a turn. This is another example of how responsible leadership can be modelled and passed on.

Use training to grow leadership skills

In the finance industry, the same principles apply. Another of my clients, a senior director in an accounting organisation, spoke of how he developed his staff.

"I typically hired them for their technical skills and of course they had an implicit mandate to keep current. In fact they were far more likely than I was to be on the leading edge of technical knowledge. However, the more important and less obvious development path for them was to grow their maturity, their seasoning and their leadership skills. I sent them on courses where they would be stretched and challenged and where their world view would be broadened."

He went on to say that when it was his time to move to a different city, there were three high-performing potential candidates for his role. And the one who got his role has continued to grow and impress while the other two went on to different and exciting roles elsewhere in the profession.

Allow someone to experience your role

One of our other clients, a manufacturing company, requires the foreman on any of their production lines to work with a deputy to grow their leadership skills. Deputies are chosen for their demonstrated willingness to step up, make suggestions for improvement and teach newer employees. Similarly in the organisation's customer call centre, they are organised into teams that field calls from all over the world, and the team leads are chosen for their ability to grow leaders who grow leaders.

What are you doing to create leaders in the people who report to you? Have you been filling your ranks with strong staff who grow other staff? And are their leadership skills as well developed as their technical skills? If so you are well on your way to being a great leader yourself.

Author: Esther Ewing