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How to develop your future leaders
As an employer, leadership development is crucial for your organisation and is a key aspect of management that all employers must engage in. Without effective leadership development practices in place, your organisation may well be facing an uncertain future, as key skills are lost and invaluable experience fails to be shared and passed on.
In a recent article for HR magazine, former HR director at the Olympic Delivery Authority, Wendy Cartwright, called for managers to “build foundations early in executive education for our future leaders”.
The following advice highlights some of the key strategies in leadership development once you have hired and identified your own future leaders.
Ensure that your future leaders are able to fully appreciate all aspects of your business and gain a broad-based knowledge of your industry presently, as well the future directions for both your industry and organisation. This is essential learning for any future business manager who may one day, make the decisions that shape your organisation.
Leadership development works, if your future leaders understand and experience the different roles of the employees in your organisation. They will one day make decisions that may affect them, so it is important that they develop an understanding from differing perspectives.
Place your future leaders in real business situations that will really test them as they attempt to solve or overcome the issues. Giving them challenging projects will reveal their capabilities and capacities, as well as develop their critical thinking skills and creativity when faced with unfamiliar and difficult tasks as they learn new skills. It will also improve their confidence and this goes a long way to enhancing their commitment to the organisation.
As an employer, you have a responsibility to support all employees, more so in the case of leadership development. The decisions they make to solve issues may not be your ideal course of action, yet supporting your future leaders demonstrates trust and respect.
Mentoring and coaching
Your aspiring leaders need to feel that there is someone they can turn to for advice, guidance and support on a professional level. Mentors can be senior employees within your organisation, retired executives or relevant professionals in other companies. Developing a structured mentoring programme is therefore imperative, in order to determine the specificities of the relationships. Often overlooked is the creation of programmes that focus on coaching and mentoring others, which will prove a useful skill as a leader.
Without regular constructive feedback, your leadership development programme can fail before it starts. Let your future leaders know how they are performing. They will be eager to find out if they are doing a good job and if there are any areas for improvement or further development. Feedback will help you to identify early on if there are any issues or if you need to make any changes to the pace or structure of their development.
Do ensure you recognise your future leaders’ achievements and growth throughout the leadership development programme and reward them accordingly. This may be in the form of performance goals, the challenge of further responsibility, a new job title, financial incentives and compensation or even a greater stake in the company’s future or the company itself. Ensure you know what motivates them and tailor your reward system to suit. However you reward them, your future leaders will appreciate the gestures and feel more motivated and committed to sharing in the vision of your organisation.
Remember, as a leader yourself, you are the best example to follow for the role, so review your own approach from time to time and ensure that you lead by example.
Browse further articles on leadership development and other useful employer advice from Michael Page.