THE DEVELOPMENT OF EMERGING LEADERS (ELS) IS OFTEN OVERLOOKED OR THE EL IS NOT GIVEN THE ENERGY NEEDED FOR HEALTHY GROWTH TO SUSTAIN LEADERSHIP.
To explore why it is important to invest time, energy and funding into ELs, we have to understand their challenges.
Let's first identify the EL.The EL is typically a star performer. This is why we choose them for leadership. They show the ability to excel in a given area, be it sales, technology, customer service, etc. Star performers are used to being on top. Often this personal success has won them affirmation, bonuses and autonomy. Managing oneself to accomplishment is quite different than bringing an entire team to success. Herein lies the first mistake seasoned leaders (SLs) make. SLs assume because an individual is a star performer they will make an excellent team leader. They then proceed to promote them, give them the keys to their new office, print business cards and think they are good to go... thus, unintentionally setting the EL up for failure.
There are ways to make this transition more successful for everyone. A good starting point is exploring with the candidate if leading people is what they want to do.
Here are some questions to ask:
- Do you realize your time and energy will now go from your technical skills, you have excelled in, to interpersonal skills?
- Your time and energy will be divided (this will depend upon all this position they will oversee‐‐such as: long‐term planning, strategy, budgets, motivating the team, keeping numbers up, hiring, meetings, etc)
- How do you see your days being different?
- How do you plan to transition from peer to manager?
- Do you have leaders, mentors or family members you trust and whose advice you value, to be a sounding board for you during this transition?
I am sure you can come up with many other questions. The principle here is to go through this process before promoting someone into leadership. There is nothing more demoralizing than to go from a star performer to poor leader. It is our responsibility as senior leadership to ensure this doesn't happen.
Once you feel comfortable promoting the EL, it is important to help them begin their leadership journey. They will make mistakes and need to know this is part of the process. The goal is to learn from mistakes and then move forward. If the EL is not comfortable coming to the SL for advice, it is important to make sure they have someone to talk with. Often, although the EL says they will come to the SL, be aware they most likely will not. Do you remember your first leadership position and the challenges that came with it? An EL fears if they show uncertainty it will be perceived as weakness and their ability will be questioned, creating doubt. A coach or outside mentor is often the better choice. The goal is to create a safe environment where the EL can get sound advice and a sounding board to work through their challenges and opportunities.
It is important to help EL first develop self-leadership.
In order for a person to lead others, they must have:
- know their personal values
- work life balance
- a network to support and be honest with them
- be grounded as an individual.
Once this foundation is built, an EL can move on to team leadership to empower others. A SL needs to teach self leadership before team leadership.
As a new team leader, an EL will need to learn things such as:
- how my self-leadership affects my team leadership
- conflict resolution
- meetings with purpose
- motivating your team
- no favorites
- hiring smart
A SL should not take for granted the EL already knows this information when they usually do not. Leaders are not born, they are taught.