Shelley Flett is a leadership coach and author of The Dynamic Leader. She says businesses with great leaders have fewer performance issues, higher engagement, better customer experience and cost less to run.
But leadership doesn’t always come naturally. Nurturing your employees and developing their skills early in their career can help you grow a team of powerful leaders who will deliver high-impact results by getting the best out of their people. Here is Flett’s advice on how to identify and grow great leaders for your business.
How to identify potential leaders
Being able to see the big picture and understand where an organisation is going is critical to being a leader, Flett says. Asking questions about the purpose of a particular task can help you recognise who in your business understands why something is expected of them and is in tune with the end goal.
But there will also be times where a leader needs to be able to dip into the detail in order to connect the values, goals and vision of the business. “Some people are really great at seeing the big picture but can end up missing problems in the business because they haven’t noticed the detail in the early stages,” Flett says. “You want a leader who can be fluid between both the big picture and the detail.”
Regularly asking your team to isolate the detail, or identify the overarching vision, helps build a business of people who have that dual focus, broadening your net of prospective leaders.
Train and mentor
A great leader balances building strong relationships with being able to deliver on results. They have the trust of their team and appreciate different perspectives, but they don’t shy away from keeping their staff accountable and on track. “A great leader understands that their individual success is dependent on the success of the people around them,” Flett says.
She suggests encouraging people to find their weak spots so they know what to work on. Get your task-focused employees along to networking events or look for opportunities where they have to interact with different people. If their people skills are excellent but they don’t always nail their tasks, consider providing time-management or mindset strategies to help them filter the important and urgent from the desirable.
One of the common mistakes businesses make is not transitioning their leaders, Flett says. The idea of leadership can often be very different to the reality and those new to the role can be left to figure it out as they go. If you can’t invest in personal coaching, at the very least try to mentor them with someone who has overcome similar challenges to what they’re facing.
Growing strong leaders
Suzanne Wood is a state general manager of mortgage broker distribution at Westpac. Wood brought in Flett to coach her 17 branch managers on how to be great leaders.
One of the most challenging things the group found was finding the right balance between guiding their staff through tasks versus providing all the answers. “Some people think it means the boss doesn’t want to help, but what you are actually doing is helping them to learn and develop,” Wood says. “It’s empowering them to make decisions and giving them confidence that you trust them.”
Wood says showing your team they’re trusted means they’ll feel confident to make their own decisions—freeing up your time to focus on the organisation’s goals, pursue innovative ideas or investigate the cause of problems, rather than applying a quick fix.
Her team came up with five guiding principles around issues such as respecting opinions, letting others speak, honest communication and bringing concerns to the table, rather than airing them in the car park. Any breach of these leadership principles could be called out by the rest of the group—a process Wood said proved very powerful.
Strong leaders have authenticity, integrity and resilience, Wood says. They should also genuinely enjoy helping people. “You need to feel comfortable guiding people to become, potentially, better than you are,” she says.