5 Ways to Develop Leaders Within Your Own Ranks Organizations need to strategize in these five ways if they want to develop leaders already in their employment.
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The best leaders understand the importance of cultivating the next generation and the need to prioritize it. In the 2019 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, 80% of mid-level managers, C-suite executives and Vice Presidents surveyed said leadership was a high priority for their organizations. However, only 41% reported believing their organizations are ready or very ready to achieve those leadership requirements.
If organizations want to develop leaders among their ranks, they need to strategize in five ways:
1. Use internships programs to find potential
Internship programs are a solid foundation for leadership development and a way for businesses to lower recruitment costs. Interns have always been a great way to mine for new talent; over two-thirds of interns return as full-time employees at the same organization where they interned. To grow leaders from the bottom up, organizations need to identify and foster interns and junior employees with high potential.
Identifying young talent is itself a skill. While some junior employees may stand out on their first day on the job, most will need time to learn new skills. Instead of finding potential based on skills, organizations need to consider the lifelong characteristics of a strong leader. A hunger for knowledge, willingness to take accountability and a team-oriented attitude are signs of high leadership potential.
A robust undergraduate internship program can identify these candidates at the earliest possible opportunity, helping them grow from interns to managers and, one day, executives.
2. Build a strong culture
A strong company culture should be a priority for any organization that wants to grow and develop potential leaders. A 2022 Gallup survey found employees who feel connected to company culture are almost four times as likely to be engaged at work. When organizations support culture, employees are satisfied and productive. They not only want to stay in their role, but they also envision a future for themselves in the organization.
Every organization's culture will operate differently, but high-performance cultures have key traits in common. When employees have clear career development and advancement opportunities, adequate total compensation, meaningful work and workplace flexibility, employees tend to be more engaged, and those seeking leadership opportunities are more apt to raise their hands.
3. Reward success
Some leaders are intrinsically motivated to lead. In general, organizations should still incentivize leadership with systems rewarding high performers who go above and beyond their roles. For a junior employee, that recognition can initiate a career-long journey to becoming a successful leader.
To motivate good performance, organizations should offer raises and promotions to deserving employees, encourage managers to call out good work and embed recognition into the company culture. For certain businesses, financial incentives can promote leadership and make sense for the business, like offering bonuses to employees who land a major client.
Related: 5 Ways to Empower Your Employees
4. Invest in leadership development
It is tempting to believe leaders are born, not made. Some believe leaders will gain all they need to know simply from progressing in their careers and accepting more and more responsibility. Nonetheless, for most leaders, leadership skills need to be learned from a mentor or a leadership development program.
The success of a leadership program depends on its structure, content and buy-in from employees and management. Leadership programs often produce measurable results. Those who are part of an organized mentorship program often quickly excel within their current role and begin to move up within the company. Leadership training programs can also have the same result when they are geared specifically toward the company's business structure. Establishing a baseline, conducting surveys and measuring career paths can help determine a program's success and allow for adjustments.
5. Encourage community involvement
Leaders need a variety of experiences and roles to reach their full potential. As leaders rise higher and higher in an organization, they also become increasingly public facing. That makes it important for leaders to become involved in their communities. Through these activities, employees and leaders acquire professional skills, learn advanced teamwork techniques and improve time management.
Opportunities for community leadership development may include becoming a volunteer or service leader at charity events, participating in civic service such as working at the polls or joining the board of a nonprofit organization. Each of these roles can encourage leaders to think more deeply about their values, mission and purpose. When they return to work, leaders who feel connected to their community bring those values and purpose into their working lives, guiding their decision-making and building a stronger culture.
To address the leadership development gap in the future, businesses should look at the programs established, determine their efficacy and invest in the elements that can move the company to greater employee engagement and business success.