Leadership potential – Importance of developing leaders at all levels

What is the definition of a true leader?

Does it sway more towards formal authority or does it mainly align with someone who makes others feel motivated and empowered?

We believe you already guessed.

Encouraging leaders are what brings a team together. Through their work, they ensure long-term success for the company, balanced with growth and opportunities for their team.

These leaders don’t have to have formal leadership roles, however. They can be anyone in the company that supports change, that brings out the best in the people they work with, and makes achieving results easier.

And what is the key to creating the work environment that allows for all that?

Psychological safety

This might be the master key.

Psychological safety is nothing less than a forerunner to adaptive and innovative performance. To achieve it we have to have the right climate, mindsets, and behaviors within the team. 

Psychological safety is the shared belief that it’s safe to take interpersonal risks as a group. These risks include speaking up when there’s a problem with the team dynamics and sharing creative ideas, among others.

When there is the right balance of safety and challenges, that’s when leaders begin to emerge. Safety makes it easier to step outside of standard boundaries, while challenges provide them with the opportunity to do so.

The consequences of lacking leadership development

If you don’t have good leadership potential in your team, trouble can be just around the corner.

First of all, a lack of leadership development impacts the way people can grow inside an organization. When opportunities are low it can lead to high turnovers, low morale, and low productivity

A point that’s oftentimes overlooked is the impact that the lack of leadership has in times of change. When there is no one in the team to spark interest, be the first to accept novelty and spread the motivation to others, a major shift becomes more of a burden than anything else.

Why is leadership development on all levels so important?

  • Better employee retention

Do you know what plays a big role in whether an individual chooses to stay with their company? 

A sense of accomplishment and ownership over their work.

Millennials, who are now 50% of the workforce, are pretty vocal about wanting meaning and appreciation at work. They want to feel included and coached. 

  • High accountability

A strong culture of accountability is extremely important for a company to function properly and successfully. Therefore, a true leader will be the first one to accept their mistake and encourage others to learn from them, passing on that accountability. 

  • Effective problem-solving

An open-minded workplace is an ideal place to find the best possible solution. Having leaders with strong problem-solving skills is a true competitive advantage.

And when this role isn’t reserved only for management, solutions from within the team can bring in a whole new perspective. Gaining insights from people who are the ones working directly with clients, can improve understanding of their needs and wants.

  • Mending skill gaps gets easier

What employers want and what individuals can actually do are sometimes two completely different things. Mending those skill gaps has become one of the key goals, having organizations realize just how serious the issue is.

If we have team members who are confident in their skills and feel like they can share them with others, then this creates a great atmosphere for learning. Peer-to-peer learning can be more relaxed and spontaneous, with team members more receptive to knowledge.

Qualities to look out for

To develop leaders, we first have to know where to start. There are so many opinions on what characteristics a leader should have, that it can be hard to filter out what’s really relevant. But, how many times did you think about what makes a leader a truly great one?

Emotional intelligence and high self-awareness are high on the list. When a leader stands for their values and knows how to translate them to real-life work – they can then easily lead by example. 

These are followed by learning agility and great communication skills. Obtaining new knowledge, applying it to work challenges and then communicating the message further is what brings great value to a team. 

By building and encouraging these 4 skills in our team, we’re improving the way we work with each new step.

Ways to develop leadership

While providing an encouraging work environment is a good start, there are a few more things that can be done to help the process along.

One of them is workshops where the whole team gets involved and everyone communicates directly from top management to individual team members. This breaks down some of the hierarchical barriers and allows for ideas and opinions to be shared with much less strain.

Secondly, teams could set aside time for a monthly meeting to go over ideas for improving their work in some way. These suggestions could be made both anonymously (this can be done by an online form like Google Forms) or directly and are then discussed openly once everyone is present. 

The point of this is to first encourage people to be creative and open-minded, without all the pressure of speaking out. Once dialogue starts and the ideas are exchanged freely, more and more suggestions will be made directly as people gain confidence in their own judgment and ability to receive feedback. 

In the end, you should strive to be a learning organization. The goal is to create an organization where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together. This is the setting where leaders thrive.

Future trends

If companies want to maximize their efforts in this area, there are four leadership trends that they should keep an eye out for. The Center for Creative Leadership has identified them as:

  • Vertical development. The uncertainty of the emerging world of work will require a stronger emphasis on building employees’ leadership capacity in more complex roles.
  • Individual ownership. The strongest benefits are realized when workers can determine their own training agenda.
  • Collective leadership. Less hierarchy and more fluidity in the workplace will require leadership skills to be more widely distributed across the workforce than it was previously.
  • Innovation. Greater agility and more experimentation are needed to meet the demands of the new, ever-changing environment.

Leadership is a social process that involves influencing others and the systematic development of good leaders is fundamental to long-term organizational success. A leader that inspires and motivates others, the one with high integrity and honesty, who solves problems and builds relationships, while displaying technical or professional expertise – is your go-to person. 

Why not have more of them?

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