Natural-born strong leaders are rare and too many executives are promoted on the strength of good technical performance without consideration for their ability to lead people. Organisations that have identified potential leadership candidates need to put in place strategies to develop them into strong leaders.
We have identified six key strategies for developing potential leaders:
Giving a challenging project or problem to someone with leadership potential is an ideal way to start the ball rolling for his or her development. It gives a potential leader the space to understand how to approach challenges, who can help, how to get assistance, and that they should consider different strategies before acting.
Rotate potential leaders into a different department or job function. This gives them hands-on experience to understand how different parts of the business work. Broader experience helps leaders better understand how they can support all areas of the business.
Mentors can share experience, skills, knowledge, a listening ear, suggestions and resources with potential leaders. Mentorships are a nurturing, supportive and effective way to develop leaders. Coaches can observe and assess potential leaders’ fundamental leadership skills and create plans to help them improve.
Learning on-the-job is the most effective way to develop leadership skills, however, organisations may want to consider professional development and training, such as funding higher education, to give high-potentials a strong foundation in leadership theory and practice.
Organisations should encourage leaders to continuously evaluate their performance. Strong leaders who understand their strengths and weaknesses can map out strategies to improve and grow.
It is important that businesses listen to leadership candidates’ thoughts, concerns and feedback as it can help guide how the business chooses to develop individual leaders. Asking them questions about their progress can also help them to think more strategically or outside their comfort level.
An essential part of developing strong leaders is to offer them the opportunity to participate in a 360-degree employee feedback program. These 360 programs provide the individual with feedback on their strengths and weaknesses from a variety of sources – managers, peers, direct reports, and external evaluators.
Bill McMurray, APAC Managing Director, Qualtrics