How to bring out the leaders in your employees

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Written by Lyndon Wingrove on 11 December 2014 in Features

One of the most effective ways of identifying likely leadership candidates is to examine the way in which they go about their work, Lyndon Wingrove says

There is a current perceived lack of individual leadership amongst UK businesses, with employees around the country either unwilling or unable to step up and lead teams to enable the business to grow. This is why it is important to develop and encourage employees to take on leadership responsibilities as much as possible. If they are trained properly, they will ultimately reap the rewards just as much as the business does.

However, before you begin to bring out the leaders in your employees, you need to be sure that you’re developing the right candidate and that their advancement, rather than the bringing in of a new hire, is the right option.

Why develop an employee when you could bring in a new hire?

Developing an employee, in the long-term, is generally far more worthwhile than bringing in new talent if you can afford the time to do so. Although in certain cases you may want to bring in a different skillset or fresh talent and ideas, investing in the people you already have tends to return that investment to you in the form of their increased loyalty and performance levels. In addition, an employee who is already part of the organisation and does not need time to bed in is a more convenient and affordable solution than bringing in someone who will need time to get going and will cost money in wages and a potential contract buy-out.

Can you tell if an employee is capable of becoming a leader?

One of the most effective ways of identifying likely leadership candidates is to examine the way in which they go about their work, rather than the end results they produce. Obviously it is important that goals and targets are met, but those who communicate clearly, are flexible in their methods and are able to organise and delegate tasks are prime candidates for advancement.

How do you develop leadership qualities in employees?

Some learning and development companies apply the 70:20:10 learning model, where the numbers respectively correspond to the amounts of experience, exposure and education needed to produce a new leader. It’s easy to teach people about the basics, but there are certain things that just can’t be taught, and in those situations it is better to gain as much experience as possible. This is where they will really learn how to lead, so there is often no better way of turning an employee into a leader than by loosening their reins and waiting to see what happens. They can be guided if they make mistakes, but if they’re the right candidate then they should be able to see how things could have been done differently and tailor their approach for the next time.

You can also assign mentors so that an experienced leader can coach someone who has recently made the step up. The latter can see how the former leads effectively and what it takes to act that way on a daily basis, and study the actions of other famous leaders to see what made them so effective and incorporate their techniques into his or her own work.

When the proper methods are applied and the right candidates chosen, it can be extremely rewarding in every sense for companies to bring out the leaders in their employees. While it won’t be a flawless process every time, the final destination undoubtedly justifies the journey.


About the author

Lyndon Wingrove is director of capabilities & consulting at Thales Learning & Development


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