One thing that every business owner needs to understand is leadership. How to be a good leader so you can achieve optimal results and how to encourage new leaders to emerge through leadership development programs. Yes, even when you’re running a business, if you ever plan to have people on your team, then learning how to become a good leader is something you need to keep in mind. But, you can’t always be the only one calling the shots; it’s just not realistic and will ultimately limit the growth potential of your operation. So, leadership is not just a singular position but a culture that permeates every level of an organization. Listen, you need to identify employees with the potential to become leaders, invest in leadership development, and encourage your employees to climb the ladder, or else it’s going to get to the point where they’re going to leave (and it’s the most talented employees who leave first), and you’re back to square one.
Business leaders need to play a pivotal role in shaping this culture, and it’s really all about actively fostering the growth and development of leaders within their teams. I’ve worked with clients who either don’t see the need for leadership development or can’t let go of the reins. No matter how talented and organized a leader is, it’s impossible to micro-manage a business once it gets to a certain size. Plus, you lose the creativity and dedication of your staff when they’re forced to submit every idea to the manager for approval. Ultimately, these companies stop growing and a cancer spreads within the organization that ultimately forces them to close their doors.
In contrast, leadership development spreads management across the organization, resulting in flatter, more nimble organizational structures. You see this with major companies, even medium-sized companies, and it’s something that you also have to see with your current business. So, what are some strategies that you can use to cultivate and empower individuals? Well, here’s everything you need to know!
Leadership development programs: the process
I once heard Ralph Stayer, the owner of Johnsonville Sausage speak at an event. He espoused something called servant leadership and touted the benefits achieved for his company by applying this philosophy. As we move through these next sections, I’ll use his efforts as an example of how to apply each element of leadership development to your own company. Of course, you don’t have to implement things the way he did, but I like to provide concrete examples to help you think about ways to apply concepts to your operation.
Start by creating a visionary blueprint
Leadership development begins with a clear vision; it’s as simple as that. So, business leaders should articulate a compelling vision for the organization, one that resonates with the aspirations of individual team members. In general, a shared vision becomes the guiding force that inspires and aligns everyone toward common goals. But also, it’s not just about your visions; what about your team? You shouldn’t expect them to follow in your footsteps because it’s about their personal growth and what they find rewarding, too.
The way Stayer presented this first step was that he woke up one morning to the realization that it was morally irresponsible to expect his employees to spend their efforts to enrich him without receiving rewards commensurate with their efforts. So, he changed the compensation structure so that employee compensation was tied to productivity (as a group) so that when the company made more money, the employees did as well.
Encourage continuous learning
When it comes to your business, there’s something else you need to do as soon as you get a team, and that’s fostering a culture of continuous learning! So, you need to provide access to training programs, such as supervisor training, workshops, and resources that facilitate skill development. By investing in training, your company benefits from the new skills acquired and such investments let employees know they’re valued which, in turn, results in higher performance, lower turnover, and less absenteeism.
On top of that, you need to constantly encourage a thirst for knowledge that empowers individuals to evolve as leaders, contributing to both personal and organizational growth. So, by all means, make sure you push this and try to provide this. Don’t just expect your employees to spend money on this- not everyone can afford it.
Always provide opportunities for skill development
So, something else you’re going to have to do would be to identify and harness the unique skills and talents of your team members. This might include needing to assign challenging projects that allow your team members to stretch their abilities and acquire new skills. For instance, Stayer offered no raises but offered more money for acquiring a new skill. So, if an employee learns how to schedule fellow employees to ensure all shifts are covered, they earn an extra bit each hour, maybe an extra dollar for EVERY hour worked, not just those hours spent scheduling.
They need to learn, they need to grow, it’s not just for your business, but for the sake of their career too. So, by providing opportunities for skill development is a direct investment in the leadership potential within your organization. Seriously, it’s worth it in the end, even if it gets a little too stressful.
Why not consider granting your teammates autonomy? This gives them the chance to make decisions and take ownership of your work, resulting in a greater commitment to the efforts. Plus, leaders often emerge when they are given the trust and freedom to make significant contributions. See, this is key; they need to have freedom and some wiggle room to make their own decisions. So, this is going to help out with encouraging autonomy fostering a sense of responsibility and leadership initiative.
For instance, Stayer encourages employees to solve their own problems. Once, a team found the seal on the packages of finished sausage leaked air resulting in a shorter shelf-life for the product in the grocery store. They found the reason for the poor seal, fixed the problem, and everyone was happy to have played a part in the decision.
Investing in leadership development offers a multitude of rewards to your company. Here are some aspects that help identify and build strong leaders. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments below.
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