The surprise snowfall that spring day stopped just before I dropped my girls off at their high school. But more surprising than the snowfall was the vision I encountered at the school. The principal and the vice-principal were shovelling the sidewalks so the students didn’t have to trek through the wet snow. They were greeting students by name and doing the chore with smiles on their faces.
I’m pretty sure most of the teenagers didn’t appreciate the gesture, but I did. Three things struck me:
- the principal was mentoring a vice-principal in leadership (though the vice-principal is a great leader himself);
- these two leaders weren’t too high on their horses to stoop down and serve;
- this set a great example for all the other staff in the school.
These are things we don’t often see in business but should. And we don’t often see them happening in organizations because we haven’t adequately trained our staff. Our emerging leaders flounder because we haven’t taught them the necessary skills for success. Too often we expect those we promote to leadership roles to naturally possess the skills they need to do the job.
This situation can arise when we take our best salesman off the floor and make them our sales manager, when we expect that a successful money manager can be a successful people manager, when we put the first warm body we find into a vacant management position.
Focusing on these five skills will help develop great leaders:
Communication: Great leaders must be great communicators. This doesn’t mean we need our best talker to be a leadership trainee. But it does mean we need people who can learn when to listen, ask the right questions, and speak words of encouragement and motivation to their staff. These skills can be taught. And we can implement systems in our companies in order for our emerging leaders thrive.
Accountability: Not only do we need to keep emerging leaders accountable, we need to teach them how to keep their team members accountable. Many emerging leaders have never been taught the skills necessary to manage staff and earn their respect. Making the transition to management can lead to heartache and loneliness if we fail our new leaders in this way.
Time management: Moving people up in our organizations without giving them the skills to manage all the projects, paper and people in a timely manner will lead to burnout or, worse, a broken home life. Hardworking new leaders, trying to please the boss and move up in the company, are often unable to sensibly manage their time. They’re unsure how to prioritize tasks and, more importantly, the work/life balance that’s crucial to successfully establishing the future of our organizations.
Servitude: Great leaders serve their people by removing roadblocks to their staff’s success. This doesn’t mean they micromanage their staff or, worse yet, do all the work for them. Just the opposite – we need to teach our leaders strategies to empower their people by supporting their efforts. When leaders do this, the whole team succeeds. How often do we fail our leaders by giving them a grand title while neglecting our service to them?
Mentorship: Great leaders mentor and coach their team members so they can be successful. This isn’t a skill that comes naturally for many people. It’s something that needs to be taught so our emerging leaders can reach their own heights.
Of course, there other issues. We need to teach emerging leaders how to determine our organization’s success measurements and how to reach these targets; how to understand and communicate with our stakeholders; when and how to plan for the success of our company; and all the details of the systems that have enabled that success.
The key message here is that we must spend the time, energy and effort necessary to ensure that the emerging leaders in our organizations have the tools to be truly great leaders.
Imagine if the next generation of leaders learned from our mistakes and were able to lead others to a higher level than we were able to achieve. Just think how much better would our companies, organizations and even the world be!
How many more principals would we have shovelling snow and leading by example?
Troy Media columnist David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy.