Pick almost any organization and you will find this is true: the leadership development “pipeline” is weaker than it needs to be. I believe each of you has potential – not only to become a stronger, more effective leader yourself, but to teach and develop other leaders.
In fact, you will hit plateaus in your own development as a leader until you pour into others, teaching and mentoring them. There are many things you simply won’t understand to learn and be able to do until you pass on what you do know to others. I’m not sure why this is true, but by observation it is deeply wired into human experience.
Most organizations simply don’t have enough people at all levels who are consciously trying to develop others. We have failed when we relegate this development work to the thin-staffed HR department, or some special training group. These individuals, bless them, simply aren’t in the thick and thin of things the way you are.
I interviewed 92 people on this topic during the past two years and find a consistent reason why people don’t do more to coach and develop others around them:
I’ll bet this is what’s holding you back, too.
These fears swamp your logic. You simply don’t feel adequate. You don’t know who. You don’t know how. You can’t imagine what you’d say, even to get started. No one ever told you that you would be developing new leaders, and it certainly isn’t listed in your corporate job description!
Fears are amplified by our own leadership faults, imperfections, and screw-ups.
What qualified me to teach someone else, when I’m still learning? I don’t have answers for my own questions let alone theirs! What if I steer them wrong? What if they find out I’m… _____.
Acknowledge your weaknesses, and use your failures and mistakes as teaching stories and teachable moments. They are actually some of the best material you could possibly share with others!
Logic won’t get you past the fears. You need to imagine a different future. Ask yourself a different category of question:
What if I took a chance on <person>? What if I delegated some work to others, and gave them feedback? What if I shared a few stories, especially about what I learned from that major screw-up, over lunch with those two people?
Organizations can do leadership development the cheap way or the expensive way.
The cheap way is to spend beaucoup bucks to send hundreds of people off to fancy “training” courses and the will come back loaded up with certificates and initials. These training courses can be useful for learning new ideas and specific skills, but they will always fall short of true leadership development. Here are three simple reasons why:
- They are an event, not a process.
- There is limited opportunity for realistic practice.
- There is limited opportunity for feedback and improvement.
The expensive way to develop leaders is to pour into people, one person at a time.
Is there any doubt which way is better? Is there any doubt that you could help others in your organization become better leaders? It’s as simple as sharing your story with them, spending time listening to them and discussing situations, and being willing to give them useful feedback.
You can start today.