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Ethical, confident, wise — these are among the many attributes of great leaders, and these attributes usually stem from that leader’s experiences and personal style. But there is one thing all great leaders have in common: At some point in their career, someone believed in them.
Here are three tips on how to use your own expertise to build the next generation of leaders for your organization.
1. Present opportunities to your people
When you think about your own trajectory to a position of leadership, you likely got there because you had experiences that others didn’t. It is so important to help others develop themselves, and to start you must give them opportunities to do so.
Opportunities can be presented in a number of different ways. One tactic I use is to share examples of my own experiences — experiences that might inspire new ideas or help someone develop an understanding of the similarities between situations that can help them move forward.
Guiding The UPS Store throughout a global pandemic will be a story I tell for years to come. Our network of franchise owners remained open as essential to serve their communities, a feat that inspires resilience and optimism that can carry you through those more challenging times. I also draw on my experience as a former officer in the Marine Corps to help explain tough conditions and how planning, preparation and the ability to adapt can help you forge ahead.
Another way to nurture development is to give employees stretch projects beyond their normal day-to-day roles. Let them take the driver’s seat so that they can develop the wisdom and confidence needed to make good judgment calls.
You’ll have to find what feels right and works for your company. Keep in mind that without these opportunities, you could be leaving your employees flat-footed to do their jobs and rise as leaders, both of which impact your organization overall.
2. Recognize your own hesitancies
Know that it’s normal to feel some level of stress when handing over the reins to your team. Whether you are worried about being accountable for someone else, giving up control or becoming a micromanager, you must overcome those feelings to give employees the opportunity to expand and evolve.
Start by identifying the sources of any hesitancy you might have, and then look for solutions to overcome it. If accountability is something you are worried about, Is there a way to find shared responsibility within a project? Start by clearly outlining the project goals and then ask your employees to check in with you at specific milestones. By keeping you informed and sharing regular updates, you can have confidence that the project is moving forward and in the right direction while allowing employees to develop their own leadership skills, generate new ideas and build upon new experiences.
Remember that failure is a part of the growth process, and a big proponent of helping employees develop themselves is giving them the space to learn, try and push beyond their comfort zone. But keep playing the role of coach or adviser to help them gain the knowledge and skills to develop as leaders.
3. Extend your circle of trust
Humans are creatures of habit and that extends to leadership. Once you’ve successfully relied on members of your team to accomplish a big task or launch a new initiative, it can be tempting to go back to the same people to do it all over again. But as new projects arise, it is important to continually identify and leverage the strengths of other employees.
Ask other leaders throughout your organization to recommend people for a project. This practice helps employees gain exposure to new areas of the business, work with a different team and adapt to new team dynamics. By trusting your people to take on new roles, you help foster a culture of integrity and develop leadership skills among a broader base of people.
The best employees are adept at making sound decisions and have the ability to plan, prioritize and solve problems. It is so important to give people the opportunity for continued professional development. Through these new opportunities, you often reveal strengths in people that you were unaware of, while at the same time, you help to scale your organization with diversity of thought and experiences that can drive your business forward.
Remember, it all started with someone believing in you. Be that person for the teams you lead.