As your business grows, you’ll find that being out on leadership island can get a bit lonely. While I have enjoyed steering the ship of success, to turn a phrase, I have recognized the need to prepare and train new leaders. Not necessarily to replace me someday, but to handle different areas of the business so that we can keep growth moving in a positive direction. As leaders, one thing we learn is that we cannot do it all ourselves, no matter what our egos may tell us.
New leaders don’t just spring up overnight or walk into your office from outside the company. While you can always hire outside for leadership roles, promoting from within will ensure your company values are executed as well. There are many traits to look for when developing leaders from the ranks, but I prefer to focus on a few important ones before getting into the more minor details of what it takes to be a leader.
Sending up communication flares
The first trait I look for in future leaders is the most pretentious one. If you haven’t noticed who your great communicators are within your organization, then you are either sleepwalking through the day or you don’t have any. These employees are the ones who stand up and start discussions and have no shame in bringing ideas to the table and building strong relationships inside and outside of the company.
Naturally, not every employee with great communication skills is set out for leadership, but every great leader must have a solid foundation of being able to articulate and communicate ideas and strategies to leadership and teams across the business. Good communicators influence action and trust, which is itself a strong trait of future leaders. Great communicators convey this with ease and confidence.
Mentoring the mentors
As you develop new leaders, you’ll notice that your leadership position has a bit of mentoring baked right into it. This is a desired and important quality of leaders, the ability to not only lead but lead through mentorship. Along the way, growing leaders will show that they too are mentors. You’ll notice them take initiative with projects and teams with a focus on the personal development of their peers.
Coaching, mentoring and keeping the mindset that any energy spent developing the team aside from the self is a trait of a good leader. These future leaders will empower others by helping them reach their goals through positive support and mentorship. Mentors always stand out from the pack, as they already have that growth mindset that is key to cultivating new leaders.
While we always want leaders to speak up and suggest new ideas and methods, we also want leaders who will listen. The side effect of leadership can often be a level of self-confidence that doesn’t always lend itself to also being a good listener. This isn’t to say that a leader must be ready and willing to accept commands put forth to them blindly, but that they are eager to hear the concerns, ideas, and thoughts of those they are leading.
Listening is a skill that some believe can be taught, but there is a difference between just listening and listening and acting on what you are hearing. Being a good leader means that I not only must be willing to hear out my employees, but it means I must be ready with advice or action that shows that their concerns or ideas are valid, valued and understood at a leadership level.
As you look for and train new leaders, you’ll want to keep these three traits in mind, as well as look for other traits like empathy, focus, and attention to detail. The ability to listen, mentor and communicate properly are three traits that all leaders must have and master in order to be able to drive the growth mentality of any business properly.