4 Tips for Developing Great Leaders

The strongest organizations are not built overnight. It takes time to identify and develop tomorrow’s leaders, and companies that put in the work will realize more benefits than just having a succession plan.

Executives and Human Resources (HR) professionals know that an organization is only as strong as its leaders. Having the right people in the right places can make all the difference for a company’s success.

However, according to research from Gallup, only 18 percent of current managers have the talent required to do their role well. Gallup also found that natural leaders possess a combination of five rare talents:

  1. Aptitude for motivating others
  2. Assertiveness to overcome obstacles
  3. Excellence in building trusting relationships
  4. Capability to create a culture of accountability
  5. Ability to make unbiased decisions that benefit the whole

While the Gallup research shows that only 1 in 10 people possesses these skills naturally, 2 in 10 have at least some of these sought-after talents. With the right management coaching and leadership development, these employees can become great leaders.

Before that can happen, though, organizations need to make leadership development a priority. As it stands, 81 percent of organizations are not effective at developing leaders, with 71 percent of leaders unprepared to lead their organization into the future.

Management coaching and leadership development is an investment of both time and money but when done full force, it will pay for itself in the end.

Here are five tips on how to start developing great leaders today:

1. Develop the right people.

Organizations that are serious about leadership development need to make sure they’re investing in the right people. Pinpoint your high-potential employees and focus on developing this group for leadership. According to CEB research, high-potential employees share three key characteristics: aspiration, ability, and engagement. These people make great leaders because they motivate others to work to their full potential.

Don’t confuse your high-potential employees with your high performers. High performers are those who excel in their current job, and while they may make good leaders, don’t assume it to be true. Performance and leadership don’t have a direct link. High performers are important to your company and to retain them, you need to find ways for them to share and develop their skills outside of leadership roles and training.

Take steps to incorporate a leadership potential review into your internal recruitment process to help ensure the right people are being moved into the right role. When opportunities come up, decision-makers will be forced to focus on the person’s potential, rather just his or her past successes and technical skills.

2. Start leadership development early.

A recent study found that 83 percent of organizations say it’s important to develop leaders at all levels. However, only 5 percent have fully implemented a plan to do so. Set leaders up for success by giving them opportunities to develop their skills early when they transition to a leadership role.

Make sure they know what’s expected of them in their new role and offer them ongoing feedback and direction. Let them know what resources are available to them, including leadership advice guides, manager coaching documents, and other similar tools.

3. Create coaching opportunities.

Great leaders should be good coaches, as well. A large part of coaching is tied to being able to provide effective feedback that is timely, specific, relevant, frequent, and actionable. Providing this type of feedback without micro-managing is a fine line leaders must learn how to walk.

Building positive relationships with team members helps open up opportunities for coaching. People learn better and are more willing to accept criticism from those they trust.

Performance reviews often present opportunities to coach employees. The key to being a great leader is being able to tie performance and development together. This keeps the conversation positive and focused on what is best for both employee and organization.

Leaders should look for opportunities to coach staff as part of their day-to-day work. Good coaches listen, ask open-ended questions, offer support, and encourage employees to push for alternative solutions.

4. Communicate top-level objectives.

The C-suite might know what the company’s long-term objectives are, but for any strategic plan to be implemented effectively, that message needs to be disseminated throughout the organization. Great leaders can explain company initiatives to all organizational levels so everyone can understand how their individual work contributes to the overarching goals.

Front-line managers should be able to convey how individual performance goals are aligned both with organizational priorities and employee development needs and aspirations. This prevents potential disconnects between the plan and the actual implementation. When everyone knows how their day-to-day activities fit into the overall plan, it drives engagement.

Great Leaders Make a Company Stronger

Developing from within rather than acquiring external talent might be a new way of thinking for your organization, but studies have shown it saves time and money. Those who are promoted from within often perform better than external hires.

The strongest organizations are not built overnight. It takes time to identify and develop tomorrow’s leaders, and companies that put in the work will realize more benefits than just having a succession plan. Great leaders at all levels improve culture and engagement, both of which ultimately can boost the bottom line.
Joanne Wells is manager, Learning Center of Excellence at Halogen Software. In her current role, she is responsible for employee skills training and development, and career progression. She has more than 20 years of experience in designing and facilitating successful organizational training and development programs for employees and senior leadership. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.