Are You Building Leaders for Tomorrow?

Are You Building Leaders for Tomorrow?
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The outlook for future leadership certainly seems bleak, judging from the current landscape managers describe nationwide:

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  • The 2015 Business and Human Capital Challenges report from the Society of Human Resource Management found that one of the top concerns among HR and business leaders was the development of the next generation of leaders.

  • Workplace Trends’ Global Workforce Leadership survey in February and March said that leadership is the hardest skill to find in employees.

  • A 2015 Gallup study of 2.5 million manager-led teams found that a mere 18 percent of current managers said their companies had the talent required for leadership.

  • Not surprisingly, among the 1,000 employees surveyed by Workplace Trends, only 36 percent said leadership was a strength in their organization.

With the demand for leadership development on the rise, companies are scrambling for solutions that are effective and quick and require a minimal investment of time and money. Fortunately, there is good news.

That news? Leaders are made, not born. While no one is created with leadership in his or her bones, many people in business are ambitious, strong communicators from the start. So, it’s up to employers to determine who shows the motivation and tendency toward leadership -- and then develop it.

But how does an organization find these diamonds in the rough? The answer is, observe how employees communicate, and identify those who seem to be the most motivational team members These young leaders are usually hiding in plain sight. They solve problems creatively, take charge and plan strategies well, and are the people others go to when they have questions or need guidance.

Once these "A" players are found, organizations should cultivate their leadership skills and "grow them" within the company using the following simple techniques:

1. Use technology to educate.

Fires don’t start with roaring flames -- they need kindling, logs, access to air and, finally, a spark. Those who want to learn leadership skills will do so, given the right opportunity andtools. Give them their spark.

Many employers worry about the cost of professional development, which is understandable. Why would they invest time and money into employees who may leave at the drop of a hat? Good news: There are many free online resources employers can offer to their staff to develop their leadership skills. Examples include Coursera,, Open Learn, and MIT even offers an online version of Organizational Leadership and Change, a graduate level university course.

Other resources vary in cost, but may be worth a look. For example, career counselors help employees gain confidence and feel more inspired. They typically use processes and build action plans geared toward goal achievement.

Webinars are also great tools. Professional organizations like the American Management Association offer webinars that are interactive and offer step-by-step guides to learning new skills.

2. Encourage networking and engagement.

Great leaders keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry. A great method for keeping informed is regularly networking and engaging with colleagues.

Teach employees to create professional relationships and confidently initiate conversations. Expanding their networks builds crucial leadership skills like communication and makes them strong representatives for the company.

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Refer them to tools like Let’s Lunch, so they can easily coordinate and meet with experts in their field who can help them achieve career success.

In addition to outside experts, focus on internal mentors. The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that 94 percent of 7,700 respondents surveyed said their mentors' advice was good, and 91 percent said their mentors showed a good level of interest in the their development. When managers can create a relationship with employees that makes the former feel less like a boss and more like a guide or a coach, they can have a great influence on employees.

Establish this dynamic to earn trust and respect. Employees are more apt to listen to and engage with leaders who develop a strong sense of camaraderie on the team. When those employees see an investment of time and energy from their employer, they will reciprocate and show an eagerness to grow in the company.

3. Suggest personal development techniques.

Personal development is a major part of any great leader’s life. Encourage employees to explore techniques in their personal lives to improve their awareness, develop their talents and build human capital while enhancing their quality of life.

There are various tools companies can use -- like exercise.  An April 2015 study from Leeds Metropolitan University found an increase in productivity and satisfaction and improved time management skills when employees exercised during business hours. Encourage exercise regimens and offer flexibility during business hours to provide employees with gym time.

Mindfulness practices are another tool. Yoga, tai chi and meditation are all great for building a sense of "present moment" awareness that helps with decision-making and productivity. There are several free and low cost online resources that can teach meditation, such as Headspace, Calm, Sattva and Buddhify.

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These lifestyle choices can increase knowledge and effectively reduce stress and improve productivity. A less-stressed, more productive employee is more apt to learn and develop his or her leadership skills.

How do you cultivate leadership in your employees?