How Executives Can Train Future Leaders

Excerpt from “The Art of Servant Leadership II: How You Get Results Is More Important Than the Results Themselves” by Art Barter (Wheatmark, 2018).

Training does not stop at the executive office. For a business and any organization to grow and continue its mission, training of new leadership is vital. If, as a leader, you are to be successful in your goal of inspiring and equipping those around you to be the best they can be, education must be a constant, ongoing process. 

And education in and of itself is not enough. In order to have a deep impact and see real transformation, to see our people become committed and engaged as never before in the process of serving others, leaders at all levels must educate to the point of ownership.

Let’s look at investing in your organization’s leadership through three areas: Adding Value, Your Time, and Living Your Education—plus my favorite how-to: Small Groups.

Add Value to Your Leaders through Education

As a leader, I’m always asking, “How do I add value to the education of our people?” 

One of the most important factors is making sure the leader’s voice is in that education. Everyone on the team needs to be speaking with the same terminology and saying the same things about the organization, especially what leadership means to them. 

You also need to add value with the content of your education. It doesn’t do your organization good if your training content is only geared toward a college student in an advanced degree program. If you have multiple Ph.D.s, for example, that’s the world you probably think in, and you may have a hard time reaching the hearts of those outside of that educational level.

In considering how to add value to your organization, you must understand the generations, as well as the capabilities of your people, so you can develop the content for every level. You want to serve them all well by teaching them in a way that will help them own the concepts and move them into their day-to-day processes.

Investing Your Time for the Good of the Organization

Another question I ask is, “How can I best spend my time to help move the training along?” 

I used to go to every session and talk about values for about five minutes, and then attend the graduation at the last class. Eventually, though, I came to realize that it was better for me to invest my time with those who were struggling with their transformation, rather than with those who were doing well. 

Sometimes we don’t want to spend time with people who don’t get it; we want to stay away from them. One of our servant-leader behaviors, though, is increasing our influence. What that means for me is spending time with people on the management team that I don’t have the best relationship with and increasing my influence with people who don’t get it. I’m already influencing those who do, so I can increase my influence even more if I go talk to people I need to create a more positive relationship with. Most of the time, that involves walk-around time. I might spend time with them when I see them outside on the patio at break time. Or I may make sure I mention something positive to them when I meet them in the hallway, and not just walk by and ignore them. 

Understanding How to Live Your Education

Another important lesson is that, while we can tell people what to do and put guidelines in place to get them to do what we want them to do, if they don’t understand the business, they’re not the leaders we need. We have to get people to live and apply what they’ve learned.

It’s great to have an academic degree, but you have to put that together with experience. Once you combine your knowledge with your experience, then add leading with your heart to that equation. Only then do you really have the ability to increase your influence with people in a powerful way.

Education (Academics) + Experience = Influence + Heart = Influence²

Take any part of that equation away and you lose a huge measure of your influence. When you apply your heart to your education and experience, your influence will be unlimited. 

Small Groups

In my early years as CEO of Datron, we would get the entire management team together—about 30 to 35 people—for two-day quarterly offsite meetings. On the first day, we would do presentations and share information; on the second day, we would solve problems. In those meetings, I observed there were certain individuals on the team who never participated. I tried many different things to engage them, but I was never successful in getting them really involved. I finally concluded that some people just had a fear of speaking out about the challenges in the company and what was needed to solve those challenges when the CEO was in the room.

So, to help people with their transformation, we decided to create small groups. The purpose of the small group is to create a safe environment for leaders to discuss the challenges they are having in changing the culture. We made sure each group was made up of only peers and did not include anyone on the level above them. This helped ensure psychological safety. 

While every company will vary, in our company, anyone with a manager or above title is required to be part of a leadership small group. Groups consist of 8 to 10 leaders and meet monthly for one hour. Through these groups, the culture change process is accelerated as trust is built within your leadership team. 

Tips for establishing small groups: 

  1. Group members must understand whatever they hear or share is confidential. What’s shared in small group stays in small group. This provides a safe environment for leaders to share their struggles and successes in changing company culture.
  2. Do not require an agenda and/or any reporting to upper management. Encourage people to seek advice from each other and share their stories. Leaders will gain solutions to problems and build stronger relationships between each other and their departments.
  3. The group should be made up of peers. You can’t be in the same small group as the person you report to. 

Your organization will be stronger when relationships are built through the leadership small group format. 

As you consider your investment and commitment to training future leaders in your organization, use these questions to gauge your commitment and progress:

  1. Is ongoing education a priority for your team? 
  2. Does your team have a process for helping its members take ownership of the education they receive (applying what they’ve learned and implementing it in their lives)? 
  3. How does your team add value to the education of its people? 
  4. How does your team invest its time for the good of the organization? 
  5. Does your team provide small groups opportunities for your people? 
  6. What does your team need to improve? 

Educate to own in developing your future leaders. You’ll be amazed at the results!

Excerpt from “The Art of Servant Leadership II: How You Get Results Is More Important Than the Results Themselves”by Art Barter (Wheatmark, 2018).

Art Barter is CEO and cultural architect of Datron World Communications Inc., a radio equipment manufacturer he transformed from $10 million in annual sales to a $200 million in just six years by putting into practice the behaviors of servant leadership. He also is CEO and founder of the Servant Leadership Institute (SLI), an organization that helps people and organizations put servant leadership into practice, through hands-on training, coaching, events, publications, and other programs. His latest book is a how-to for implementing servant leadership in any organization: “The Art of Servant Leadership II: How You Get Results Is More Important Than the Results Themselves.”


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