If you’re the founder of a startup or a small business you understand the importance of developing leadership in your team members. It’s not that every one of your people needs to have the authority to act as a leader in your team. But you do want leadership potential in your team members for several reasons.
Team members who aren’t afraid to be leaders aren’t afraid to make decisions. In a startup, you want your team members to judge the situation and quickly move ahead, not to wait for your approval on every task they’re working on. As an entrepreneur, you might take the ability to quickly asses the situation and make decisions for granted, but there are plenty of people who are happy to sit at their desk waiting for the next assignment. And perhaps that's not necessarily good or bad - it’s just not startup material.
Team members with leadership potential are invaluable assets to a startup. They can breathe life into a team with low motivation and morale, and inspire others to work on their own leadership skills. Not to mention that they’ll infuse their passion into all the work they do.
Can leadership be taught?
Here’s the short answer: yes, leadership can be taught, but not everyone wants to learn it.
[Tweet "Leadership can be taught, but not everyone wants to learn it."]
What do I mean by that? Leaders are not born leaders - they become leaders, if they’re passionate enough about it. Instead of forcing people to be leaders by providing them with training and hoping they’ll become what you want them to be, try looking for people who already have a desire to take on leadership.
Ask yourself if you see a burning passion in this individual, if you can see them covering for you when you go on vacation, if they have the company’s best interest at heart and they’re interested in moving it forward in everything they do.
So what can you do, as a leader yourself, to develop leadership skills in your team?
It starts with hiring
Hiring is a good time to assess whether someone is a cultural fit with your company, and it’s also a great time to assess their leadership potential. You’re looking for someone who is proactive and will raise concerns if there are any. It’s good to give a potential hire an assignment directly related to an issue you’re facing in the company, to see how they react to it.
Don’t settle for mediocrity
If you find that a staff member is lukewarm toward the company, don’t settle for it. If their lack of interest it’s a sudden change from how they usually behave, then try to find out what caused it. But if all your efforts to support this person to do better don’t result in any change, don’t settle for someone performing at a mediocre level. If there’s no improvement and if the lack of passion persists, it’s time to move on for both of you. It will be the best decision for the whole team.
Embrace diversity of thinking
A strong team is a team that is made up of diverse ways of thinking. For a great team you need different perspectives, which come from having a variety of ages, races and sexes. Not only will this give you the opportunity to find different types of leadership styles within your team, it will also help team members assess and solve problems from a multitude of angles.
People come first
You’re not a leader unless others follow you, and no one will follow you unless they understand what you stand for and believe in it. Your team members need to have a feeling of belonging to the company in order to feel passionate about its cause. For better leaders, work on creating an emotional bond between the people and what the organization stands for.
Teams that learn together lead together
[Tweet ""Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” ~John F. Kennedy"]
If you’re going to have leaders in your team, they need to be constantly learning. This doesn’t only mean that they should have an inherent love of learning, but also that they will be sharing what they learn with other team members to help them keep up with relevant trends. Share interesting articles and books among your team and the whole team will be better for it.
In the end, leadership team development is about nurturing the passion that is already there within your team members. If you start with team members that are proactive and interested in taking the company forward, leadership development will be a natural extension of the job.
How have you developed leadership skills within your team members?