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Idea Box: Develop Leaders for Long-Term Growth and Success
Cultivating leaders: All levels of workers can develop skills and attitudes that give a company a larger pool of workers qualified to step into new roles and achieve more sustainable long-term growth.

By Staff
Date Posted: 4/1/2014

                Cultivating leadership skills in their workforce is one of the most important jobs for the management of any company. Unfortunately, not only do many leave this entirely up to the human resources department, they also focus training and development opportunities exclusively on new hires or those moving into new positions.

                The problem with this approach is that it neglects to train workers to adjust to changing job requirements and creates only a small pool of workers qualified to step into new roles whenever the company needs them. Hiring someone who already has the leadership skills you need may be easier – and is undoubtedly faster – than training up those already on staff. But research has shown that leaders who are developed from within a company have a greater commitment to the company, a better understanding of its culture and core values. And they tend to achieve more sustainable long-term growth.

                Developing leaders does not mean that you are planning to give all of them management positions. Leaders are people who take responsibility and initiative, solve problems and influence others – all of which are attributes of a valuable employee at any level. By cultivating these and other attitudes and skills in your workforce, you will create a culture of leadership that breeds more leaders.

                There are many ways to approach leadership development. Corporate retreats, seminars and team building exercises all have their benefits. On-site workshops, mentoring relationships and on-the-job training also play a critical role. But the most important aspect of any leadership development effort is having it result in leadership skills being brought back to and used in the workplace. This means that management has to ensure that there are ways for workers to put them into practice.

                Senior management needs to support and be actively involved in the process. Cultivating leadership capabilities in people requires an ongoing effort. It is not something that can be accomplished by participating in a three-day seminar. Managers and supervisors need to put daily time into developing leader attributes and skills across all levels of employees if they want to create a culture of leadership that lasts.

                Leadership development can start with a simple plan that lists development goals, concrete actions for achieving them and a timeline of when they will occur. Goals can be chosen by comparing the current capabilities of your workers to your ideal team. What do they need to do differently to reach that ideal? Do they need to take more initiative? Do they need to communicate better? Choose specific training or actions that will help teach these skills. For example, if you would like a worker to be able to troubleshoot routine issues with a production machine instead of expecting a supervisors to solve all problems, you can have a member of maintenance run a workshop that walks them step-by-step through troubleshooting common issues. Focus on sustainable improvements with long-term benefits, not on quick fixes.          

                When choosing these goals, make sure that each person is included in helping set their individual goals. When people are personally interested in accomplishing something, rather than assigned a task, they will take more responsibility for reaching the goal. Periodically meet with individuals to ensure that progress is being made and that they are receiving the assistance they need to reach their goals while still being challenged to grow in their capabilities.

                Lastly, management should not forget to continue developing their own leadership skills.  You should have your own leadership goals that you are working toward. The example of continued growth set by management sets the tone for the entire company. And by continuing to expand your own skills, you will be better able to develop them in others.

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