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Great leadership matters. Regardless of whether your company is a global enterprise or an SME, you should be concerned with succession planning. You’re going to want to ensure that the right people are being trained, and given the tools they need to become your inspirational company leaders of tomorrow. Without the right people, your company is likely to have a short future and lose out to competitors who have put solid, well-constructed leadership development plans in place.
So how does a company appropriately select, manage and encourage leaders so that they are able to reach their potential and unite a team? There are a number of ways of doing so- and it all begins with recruitment and hiring for potential. You then need to take the necessary steps to ensure these employees are given the opportunities, confidence and training necessary to excel beyond their own expectations, remembering the whole time that great leaders are not born- they are developed. If you expect excellence and demonstrable leadership from certain employees, you need to invest in them and provide them with the tools to grow.
Excellent leadership begins with recruitment assessment
When hiring for a given position, it is a wise move to look to the future. For most roles, you don’t want to hire someone you believe has no potential to improve, climb the ranks or provide further value down the line. It’s a much smarter decision to recruit an individual who is proactive, willing to learn and who is both enthusiastic about improving the company as well as themselves.
If you think this sounds like a complicated task, you’d be right. Not only do you have to consider leadership skills and characteristics for both current and potential future positions but you also need to take into consideration those personalities who would best fit within your existing (or desired) company culture. This will require a comprehensive analysis of the critical role competencies, what your company stands for, what its values are and where it aims to be in two to five years’ time.
In order to obtain as much objective and reliable data as possible, many companies decide to make use of psychometric testing. In fact, approximately 80% of the Fortune 500 employ psychometric tests in some way or form. During the recruitment assessment process, you’ll be able to explore each candidate’s personality, leadership capability, motivations and attitudes, as well as managerial judgement, potential behavioral derailers under pressure and cognitive abilities. When the results of these assessments are analyzed and verified by an expert business psychologist, in combination with an array of other structured behavioral exercises, they form a much fairer guide than relying on gut instinct or the poor predictive validity of the average unstructured job interview. By putting in place such an objective and thorough recruitment assessment process you can alleviate many of the cognitive biases that sabotage recruitment practices, you can pinpoint leadership potential early on, and you will improve staff retention rates.
Know who to promote (it isn’t always easy)
If you have recruited selectively and wisely, your workforce should now be populated with eager, intelligent and engaged employees. With the cream of the crop, how do you know who to promote, or who to offer leadership development?
There are a lot of misconceptions about leadership, and acting on these misconceptions can prove pricey in a number of ways. For example, you don’t want to simply promote your top performing employees. They might be excellent in their current role, but do they have the necessary characteristics required to lead a team? Can they motivate and inspire, while uniting a team behind a given project? Are they constantly micromanaging? Do they exhibit trust and instill it in others? Similarly, you don’t want to promote those who are simply the most extroverted and confident. Keep an eye out for quieter, calmer employees who, despite their introverted nature, are able to motivate others to be productive.
You don’t want to waste time and money backing the wrong employees for top positions. Put in place thorough development centers to assess for key leadership competencies and don’t overlook certain employees just because they’re not aware of their own leadership potential.
Let your employees know you promote from within
There are a lot of benefits, financial and otherwise, to promoting from within. Your existing employees have shown themselves to be reliable, are aware of the company culture, and they know how the business operates. On average, external hires also tend to perform worse than those hired from within. On top of this, promoting existing employees can do wonders for company morale. Once your company knows that you favor existing employees, you begin to develop a more loyal reputation, which will actually facilitate future recruiting efforts. It will also demonstrate to your current employees that you are invested in them and their futures. This means they will be able to more confidently work towards a leadership role with your organization, instead of looking for opportunities elsewhere.
Many companies decide to use leadership development programs
Deciding who to promote to a leadership position is only part of the battle. You then have to give them the developmental support required to become a great leader. This can be done in many ways, and some companies choose to utilize leadership development programs. Such a program should be tailored to your needs and can help potential leaders learn how to cope with the complexities inherent to a managerial position. Employees will also be able to explore what leadership means to them in their role and company, what the positive and negative consequences of their natural style of leadership may be, how to cope with change and deal with the pressures of the role.
Behind every great CEO is an executive coach
Executive coaching is a confidential, one-on-one experience, wherein the executive is given impartial, third-party support, which ultimately allows them to take charge of their own professional development. Many executives feel a sense of isolation in their senior role, especially when faced with crucial decisions. Coaching can facilitate this transition and make the whole process seem less daunting. A coach will help shine a spotlight on behaviors that if overplayed can become counterproductive and impede leadership effectiveness. This is perhaps why Psychology Today has stated that “every CEO needs an executive coach.” At a time when CEOs and senior managers are facing more challenges and pressures than ever, a little help can go a long wayparticularly given the tendency CEOs have to burning out.
There are a number of ways to encourage employees to develop and become excellent future leaders, but as no leader is born with all the skills and strengths necessary, they need their companies to lend a helping hand. Put in place thorough recruitment assessment processes. Highlight potential and succession plan through structured development centers. Give your leaders the training necessary through a tailored leadership development program. Then support those in senior positions through executive coaching. Demonstrate to your employees that you have faith in their abilities, you appreciate their efforts, and you believe they have the building blocks for leadership. In time, you’ll benefit from dozens of potential future leaders.