The Leader’s Role in Growing New Leaders
Beverly Kaye
Developing valued employees is particularly critical dur-
ing periods of economic uncertainty. If organizations are
to remain productive during a down cycle, leaders must
commit to engaging and retaining the talent that is need-
ed to simultaneously support the organization for the
present and the future. This not only means the develop-
ment of top leadership bench strength but the recognition
and development of emerging potential leaders as well.
Although leaders will agree on the importance of this
responsibility, they will also complain that they simply
don’t have the time to attend to this function, especially
at the time of this writing, when everyone is forced to do
more with less; and there is a belief that this kind of ini-
tiative takes time, and lots of it.
Although they don’t mean to, leaders often take their top
performers for granted. The focus is on the task at hand
and the factors impacting the organization’s productivity,
with attention to people often taking a backseat. This is a
natural response to tough times; after all, there’s only so
much time in a given day, and those hours have extended
way beyond what they once were.
Sadly, the truth is that when the going is tough there is
even more reason to focus on talent in the organization
and to continually collaborate with employees on their
development and growth. Great leaders know that they
absolutely cannot put the development of the next gener-
ation of leaders on a back burner. This investment in the
future is one that no organization can afford to ignore.
American Management Association
Growing new leaders requires a conscious, public effort on the part of an
organization’s top leadership. Leaders set the pace in an organization: the
organization’s leaders have to behave in the same way as they expect every-
one else to behave. As a leader in your own organization, the duty of grow-
ing new leaders is primarily yours.
You can personally participate in the process of growing new leaders in
many different ways, but I have found that four basic skill areas are critical
no matter what approach you take.
Pay Attention
Paying attention is not just hearing words, but really listening to what your
employees have to say. Help your future leaders identify their career values,
work interests, and marketable skills. Enable them to recognize the impor-
tance of taking the long view of their careers, and create an open and accept-
ing climate for them to discuss any concerns they may have about their paths
to leadership within their organizations. Help your employees understand
and articulate exactly what they want from their careers.
Encourage your employees to talk about themselves.
Listen to the results of your employees’ self-assessments.
Ask questions to clarify employees’ self-assessments.
Give ideas on resources for further exploration.
Talk Straight
As Ken Blanchard once put it, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
Make a point of providing regular and candid feedback to your employees
about their performance and how others perceive them within the organiza-
tion. Be clear about what it will take for them to progress in the organization
and for them to grow as leaders. Spell out expectations and standards, and
point out the relationship between their performance and their future
prospects with the organization. Make specific suggestions for how they can
improve their performance and reputation.
76 Part Two Developing People
American Management Association

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