When we think of leadership, many times we immediately think about senior and executive level managers. Although this is true, leadership exists at many levels below the senior one. First of all, you should examine your functional levels for emerging and existing leaders. This means that the very lowest levels of your organization will grow leaders – and you must look for them there. A functional leader is someone with a great deal of knowledge in a functional area, such as assembly lines or bank proof operators. The difference is that the functional leader uses that knowledge to empower others, solve problems, and develop his or her career. You may find that these functional leaders even exhibit more of a leadership role than their direct supervisors – and it’s up to you to decide what to do with them.
You can also look for leadership in the middle supervisory or management areas, as well as the functional supervisors. Many times our inclination is to leave this group out – they are productive, happy, and get good feedback from the people who report to them. Therefore we think that they’ve achieved their career goals – but think again. You’ll find that these middle management leaders are solving problems, championing your vision without being asked, and taking the time to motivate and inspire their workers. These leaders can be ready for advancement – and advanced leadership training. Take the time to seek them out. Obviously your senior and executive management teams are full of leaders – but it’s still your responsibility to keep them motivated, inspired, and in a leadership stance. In fact, it may be that this group is your biggest challenge – you’ve got to find a way to keep these leaders motivated even though they may have reached a staying point in their career with the organization.
So if you’ve identified these various levels of leaders, what can you do to develop, motivate, and retain them? At the functional levels, you should always offer additional functional training, whether it’s in the same area of expertise or across functions. Consider adding management and leadership courses within the function. For example, if you’ve got emerging leaders on the assembly line, develop courses that teach these leaders how to coach and motivate within the assembly line environment, using specific examples and scenarios from that area. The middle management and supervisory areas are the best places to begin leadership development in earnest. Offer management and leadership courses and seminars for anyone in these roles or anyone who is aspiring to or recommended for these roles.
These learning interventions include coaching, human resources management, and leadership. Open these courses and interventions up to the functional leaders at various times, as well. In fact, you may want to consider using a leadership assessment tool to prove the leadership aptitude at the functional levels – and open the leadership development program to those individuals. This level of development motivates the functional and middle level leaders to continue working hard and developing their skills. At the executive or senior level, leadership development should take on a much more “intense” tone. For example, leaders could undergo intense team building, such as ropes courses or survival type interventions to solidify the team. Or, leaders at this level can be placed into work groups to solve real organizational problems and lead the project teams. Development at this level should be real-time and use real problems – and you can gauge the leaders’ abilities in numerous competencies. This isn’t necessarily something you or your training department should tackle alone – there are numerous consultants and firms that can help you with leadership development at the senior levels.
Now that we’ve discovered where leadership exists and how to develop it, let’s talk about why you should take the time and money to do it. First of all, you’re creating a culture of leadership. In fact, this could be one of your values – the ones you want to pass into the organization’s culture. By identifying leaders and developing them, you’re showing that the organization is dedicated to maintaining leaders – and finding new ones at all levels. Not only this, you’re extending your culture of development. Your organization may offer training of many kinds, but adding leadership development shows a high commitment to excellence.
Any time you invest in leadership development, it gives you the opportunity to create and maintain a talent pool. You’ll be amazed at how your leaders react to their development – and how you begin to put together the puzzle pieces related to talent management and succession planning. As development grows, you’ll have a constant talent pool – and the ability to rest easy knowing that your leadership needs, planned or unplanned, are already met. Finally, and most importantly, identifying and developing leaders at all levels creates and maintains a level of motivation. You’ve taken the time to outline the competencies you look for in leaders, so aspiring leaders have a way to grow. They will strive for recognition as leaders – and inspire their direct reports to do so, as well. And the fact that you recognize leaders at all levels will inspire a motivation that’s hard to achieve.
Copyright Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.