One of the many things I have learned as a leader over the years is that you cannot lead alone. Sure, you might be the only one sitting at your desk, with your particular title, but you need help. Building your vision takes specific skills and attitudes, tasks and projects, but it also needs leaders. It needs employees who are willing to do more than just input numbers into a spreadsheet or answer phones. Your business needs leaders who are willing to lead by example and expertise. As a leader, it is your responsibility to encourage employees to take initiative and become leaders, not just within your organization but with an eye to their personal growth as well.
Leadership isn’t just about managing a team or running a meeting, it’s about having the inherent skills needed to inspire creative innovations, personal growth and development, and forward thinking. Leaders are those who show other employees daily that they are ready and willing to train, share information and move projects forward. Leaders rise to challenges and inspire others to do the same. The importance of hiring the right people to not only keep your business grinding towards its goals but to become leaders themselves cannot be understated.
Since you are the leader, it is your company, after all, it is your responsibility to cultivate an environment of personal growth that will spawn new leaders. These new leaders may someday assist you in further growth, or leave to become leaders elsewhere. Either way, it is your responsibility to assist them in having the skillset needed to be leaders. You can start by being a mentor. Leaders learn from other leaders, and one of the best ways to learn leadership skills is to build relationships with great leaders. Being a mentor, being there for your employees personal and professional growth means you are invested in their future no matter where that future may take them.
So give them room to grow. Give them the tools needed to become better employees, then better leaders. Offer training and development courses to further their education. Encourage open door brainstorming sessions. Offer ways to share creative ideas and innovations. Be ready and willing to accept new ideas, then help foster their growth. Sure, along the way you need to ensure the ideas being presented are positive change initiatives for your current operations, but this will help you determine who on your team is ready and willing to take the next step in their career.
Encourage those next steps. Involve future leaders in networking opportunities and assign them tasks that will help them further their skills. Choose them to lead meetings or projects relevant to their area of focus, encourage cross-training and successive planning. Along the way, they might struggle a little bit, but that’s all part of the learning curve. There is always an adjustment to becoming a successful leader, but if you are ready to offer advice and training, your employees will be ready to take the leap.
Mostly, it’s all about trust. You can tell an employee they are ready to be a leader, you can assign them leadership responsibilities, but without a feeling of trust from you, they won’t feel ready to take on the job. If you trust your employees to make the right decisions (or the wrong ones and fail without serious repercussions) but still ask they run things by you first – is that trust? Build confidence by trusting your future leaders. Listen to and implement their ideas and be willing to accept their failures, because eventually, they will rise to the challenge and become the leaders you know they already are.