Leaders are born, not made, right? Wrong.
Strong team members can grow into influential leaders in the matter of a few tasks, but an encouraging workplace is essential to this growth. Starting an emerging leaders program can dramatically change the way your teams work, creating a workforce of leaders that work well together. While it sounds daunting, kick-starting a leadership program in your workplace doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking! With a few changes to your workflow, you can turn your office of followers into a stable of strong leaders.
1. Ramp Up Responsibilities
Some leadership skills can’t be taught, they must simply be done. If you want more effective leaders in the workplace, you’ve got to expect employees to rise to the occasion by increasing their responsibilities. While managers are often hesitant to hand over the reigns to a team member for a project, this will ultimately be a sink-or-swim test for leadership effectiveness.
What does the ramping up of responsibilities look like? Managers should move away from the idea of straightforward deliverables, instead focusing on big picture objectives. This allows space for delegation, and in turn, other team members to step up and take responsibility for portions of projects.
When you ask an employee to learn by doing, managers must understand that mistakes will be made. But, that’s part of the process. In turn, those moments will challenge managers to become stronger leaders themselves. In those moments, employees can learn from mistakes as well as from the example the manager sets.
2. Move Away from Micromanagement
When you more efficiently delegate responsibilities, you give individual contributors the opportunity to become their own managers, creating space for leadership skills to emerge. Make it a point in the workplace to guide your team instead of micromanage them. As previously mentioned, consider the big picture rather than day-to-day task delegation.
Moving away from a traditional management structure creates an environment that can help foster leadership. Focus on feedback - not only on a project to project basis, but day to day. In some ways, guiding is more hands-off, allowing employees to figure things out on their own. In other ways it’s more hands-on, having more in-depth dialogues on places to improve and grow.
When you ask a manager to stop managing the team, you create a shift within employee dynamics. It opens space for individual contributors to take responsibility, creating a path for employees to become managers themselves.
3. Ask Everyone to Lead
Make it easy for employees to try leadership within your team. It might be a small task, but even a taste of leadership can help team members grow leaps and bounds in personal development.
When you flatten a command structure, you also make it easier for employees to feel comfortable with the idea of personal leadership. Allowing individuals to dip their toe into the leadership pool ensures growth without too much pressure.
This might mean rotating who leads the weekly check-in meetings, or it could be as big as having different teammates run point on various client projects. The bottom line is, leadership opportunities - no matter how small - give employees a chance to grow. When your team members feel that leading is attainable, they’ll become stronger leaders naturally.
4. Embrace Education
Leadership workshops may be a cliche, but they work. While leadership styles and company structuring can bring out leaders in the workplace, workshops are a direct way to discuss leadership and growth within a team.
Bring in a coach to work one on one with team members to identify goals and areas of growth. In a team setting, an executive coach can help focus on team dynamics and the importance of leadership within the team. When it comes to bringing leadership education into the workplace, it must be a company-wide effort, a drive towards continuous improvement for everyone.
With patience, practice, and planning, leadership can be taught in the workplace. Instead of worrying about creating too many leaders within a team, we need to be asking ourselves why we don’t have more. Focusing on building leaders in the workplace gives employees agency, creating a stronger, more cohesive and driven workplace.
Learn more about how Ace-up's Business Extension program helps employees become the best leaders they can be, and how companies can provide the support necessary for employee growth.