Strong leadership is one of the most important factors in the success of any organization. And most companies understand that fostering a strong leadership culture is critical, especially when it comes to ensuring staff are equipped with the skills needed to guide the company into the future. But are you doing enough to prepare your employees for these leadership roles?
People often get promoted into leadership roles because they are top performers and have strong technical or functional skills that allow them to be experts in their domain. However, this doesn’t always translate into effective leadership. Transitioning into a management role requires a completely different set of skills—and the development of these skills is where many companies fall short. According to CEB Global, 60% of new managers fail within their first 24 months on the job. This can lead their direct reports to perform 15% worse on average than those who report to a high performing manager.
On the other hand, great leaders create a positive impact on not only those around them—but on overall company culture and strategic goals. As a result, leadership development is an initiative that demands your long-term attention, dedication, and commitment. Continue reading to learn more about leadership development, what it is and why it is important, and how you can help prepare your employees for the next level.
What is leadership development?
Leadership development is the process of enhancing an individual’s ability to perform in a leadership role at the organization. In other words, it’s how companies develop the talent they already have into the leaders they need for tomorrow. This is something that should be offered for employees at all levels—from entry-level to experienced—to ensure everyone has the skills they need to make an impact, better lead, and meet new business or industry demands.
Why is leadership development important?
Effective leaders are important to any organization. They can build strong teams, foster strategy alignment, drive execution, and navigate change. In addition to helping the company achieve its goals, a great leader can boost employee morale, build strong engagement, and identify and mentor future company leaders. To sum it up, a strong culture of leadership development leads to:
- Improved business performance
- Better customer engagement
- The ability to attract and retain top talent
- A culture of accountability and high engagement
- Better diversity
- Company-wide alignment with executive leadership
- Better innovation
Qualities of a great leader
Of course, developing strong technical skills are important for elevating your people to the next level. However, there are many qualities that define a great leader beyond domain expertise. These include, but are not limited to:
To foster effective leadership, you must also help staff develop these essential management skills:
- Strong communication
- Goal + deadline setting
- Problem solving
- Change management
- Influence and negotiation
How to implement leadership development
Though each organization should design its leadership development program around their own business needs, unique roles, and specific challenges, there are several building blocks that can be applicable across the board. Here are a few to get started with:
Align development plans with each employee’s goals: Asking employees about their goals is a great way to identify employees who want to take on additional responsibility, especially when it comes to management opportunities. As part of their development plan, make sure employees are given responsibilities or projects that can help them achieve their development goals.
Identify key skills gaps: First identify what skills your organization will need to be successful in the future, and then do an assessment to determine if you are lacking them today. Is there anyone on your team with the potential to fill in the gaps? If so, ensure this training is part of their leadership development plan.
Have a succession plan in place: Even if it is not yet needed, a succession plan can help you identify who would be suited for a leadership role when one becomes available. Beyond identifying high potential talent, a succession plan can be integrated into an individual’s development plan to ensure they are meeting the right milestones and getting the training they need to successfully step into that role when the time comes.
Provide aspiring and current managers with soft-skill related training: Not all of the skills listed above are innate for everyone. Nevertheless, they are critical for effective leadership. Make sure all aspiring and current managers are equipped with the training they need to develop these essential skills.
Encourage mentorship and coaching: Leadership development can be overwhelming without the proper support. Coaching, mentorship, and even small group sessions that allow aspiring leaders to connect can give staff a safe space to learn, grow, and identify the skills they want to hone.
Empower staff to be problem solvers: Anyone can demonstrate leadership skills, even if they are not in a formal management role. Being an effective problem solver is a great sign that someone has what it takes to move into leadership.