7 Steps to Growing Great Leaders

Effective leaders are a key resource at all levels of an organization. Leaders are a necessity if companies are to thrive and succeed in the long-term. Great leaders push a company forward, elevate expectations, and are well-equipped to motivate those around them.

Leaders are critical, as they align employees to the company’s overall vision, while promoting effective communication, and inspiring an excellent standard of work. Neglecting the importance of leadership can be costly, resulting in high turnover and poor overall performance.

With this in mind, HR executives need to turn their attention to their own processes and address how they can detect, encourage, and promote great company leaders. Here are 7 things HR can do to recruit and develop future great leaders.

1. Use assessments to find leadership potential

To harness the power of leadership, HR must make efforts to ensure individuals with leadership qualities are recruited. This is where recruitment assessment steps in; it is a highly detailed and analytical process, designed to eliminate the emphasis hiring managers put on a ‘gut feeling.’ Instead, objective measures such as psychometric testing, executive assessment and appropriate personality tools are utilized, helping screen for intrinsic leadership characteristics and future potential. Approximately 80% of Fortune 500 companies make use of these tests to ensure the right hire. If HR is set on hiring future leaders, recruitment assessment is the best place to start.

2. Empower employees

Once employees are hired, managers should prioritize employee empowerment. Giving employees a greater degree of autonomy and power over their own work inspires independence and confidence — two qualities regarded as critical to the development of a great company leader. Introduce flexibility into various aspects of work life and give promising employees decision-making authority. This can be applied to work schedules, goal setting, and working hours. As long as employees are hitting their targets and progressing, it is worth taking a step back.

3. Challenge employees with stretch goals

Employees should be encouraged to set their own goals and make them challenging to achieve. Inspirational leaders challenge themselves and are constantly striving to improve. We are also far more likely to achieve our goals — and to perform them to a higher standard — when we challenge ourselves. When these employees regularly meet or exceed expectations, they should be rewarded and recognized by their manager, HR and the company as a whole.

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4. Offer development programs

There is a lot of debate as to whether leaders are born or made. To address the former point of view, HR can utilize executive assessment to select employees with natural leadership skills. As for the latter, leadership development programs can be used to educate employees on leadership skills, styles, and requirements. This can also help promising employees learn how to deal with managerial stress, rapidly changing work conditions, and high workload demands. Studies reflect the efficacy of leadership development schemes; it has been shown that companies effectively deploying such programs are 86% more able to deal with rapidly changing market conditions.

5. Provide coaching and mentorship

One-on-one executive coaching can be used by companies who want to actively encourage effective leadership skills. Skilled executive coaches are trained to identify gaps and develop self-awareness based on authentic coaching conversations. They act as an objective third party, a springboard for opinions and can come up with tailored development solutions for the would-be leader. Facilitating the conversation and helping others come up with their own solutions can have the greatest results and bring about long-term positive change. This means that promising employees still have the chance to be promoted, even if they don’t initially possess all the characteristics desirable in a great leader. Executive coaching can be used to harness these qualities.

6. Communicate career progression routes

For leaders to truly flourish, they need a clear route of progression. HR can help in this way by highlighting how an employee can advance. Eager employees should be offered support and encouragement. Promising employees who are forced to remain in the same position for years risk becoming disengaged, or your organization may lose them entirely to a company who appreciates their potential and skills.

7. Emphasize manager communication

To keep employees motivated and aspirational, constant and effective communication is a must. Leading corporations are moving towards continuous performance management, which involves frequent performance check-ins over annual reviews. In 2012, Adobe made this switch and saw a 30% decrease in voluntary turnover. This clearly demonstrates the importance of regular managerial communication, and such discussions are a great way to bring up career development plans, progression routes, and training possibilities.

Nick Davis is a London-based business psychologist and director at Davis Associates. By applying best practice executive assessment, coaching, and leadership development, Nick has helped clients across the globe achieve greater individual, team, and organizational performance.

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