Organisations no matter s mall or large spend more money on developing talent and potential leaders than any other group of employees. Equally the number of hours spent in both formal and informal training will be greater for this group of individuals. It is imperative therefore that an organisation’s commitment and investment in developing and cultivating talent reaps the right rewards.

It is also recognised widely that looking to recruit leaders from outside your organisation can be costly and time consuming, which is why having the ability to develop talent from within can give your organisation a long term competitive advantage.

Leadership development is a necessity for organisations looking to increase revenues and cut costs. It is a long term commitment to a structured programme that will develop your talent into the kind of leaders that will take your organisation forward. Undoubtedly, it is the performance of leaders who have a massive impact on your bottom line.

Yet many organisations struggle to effectively identify, develop and retain high performing individuals. One of the most common mistakes made, is to promote employees based on their job skill rather than their readiness to lead. Whilst high performing individuals need management skills, they also need the determination and commitment to inspire others and the ability to have a positive impact on the culture of your organisation.

Here are some of the best and proven strategies to develop leaders within your organisation.

Have a leadership plan

Any leadership programme needs to support the goals and vision of your organisation. It is critical therefore to first understand the following:

What specific leadership skills are required to execute your organisation’s strategy? Are you looking to:

Enter new markets
Develop innovative and new products
Rapidly increase sales
Expand your management structure

Determine your priorities so that your investment in a leadership programme has focus and will deliver against the outcomes required to meet your growth objectives. Remember the best leadership programmes, are driven by, and integrated with your business strategy.

Secondly it is important to understand what is already in place to develop emerging talent; what is already working effectively or needs improving; what would a successful leadership programme look like; how much time, energy and money are you willing to invest; and what are the benefits and rewards you want to reap?

Recognise potential

Emerging leaders can exist at all levels of your organisation. It is important to know the leadership skills and traits that you are looking for. Set clear criteria around the competencies and expectations required to identify and evaluate those individuals who are demonstrating these qualities. Ensure your managers are on the lookout for potential talent and make the leadership development of others a performance measure for existing leaders.

In building your talent pool for potential leaders look beyond job specific skills and consider employees who:

Stand out from their peers and demonstrate influential and positive behaviours
Naturally attract followers and have the respect of their team
Demonstrate creativity, new thinking and bring valuable ideas to the table
Positively take on feedback, handle pressure and stay calm in the face of adversity
Act with integrity and honesty not just in communications with others but also in self perception
Take ownership of their careers and are motivated to achieve their ambitions

Sell your vision

To attract and retain your best employees it is fundamental that they believe in the vision of your organisation. It is important to be transparent and share your organisation’s goals, strategy and the role your employees play in making that happen.

Creating a culture whereby your people are invested in the work they do, can easily contribute ideas and feedback, and understand their contribution to the overall success of your organisation, will ensure they feel valued and believe in what you are trying to achieve.

It is also important to sell your leadership programme to potential high performing employees. Knowing that you are invested in their development will create loyalty and mean they are more likely to see a future for themselves in your organisation.

Create development opportunities

It is essential to give emerging talent the right tools, resources and opportunities to develop their leadership skills and demonstrate the traits and behaviours you are looking for in a potential leader

Place talent on challenging projects to develop their critical thinking, creativity and resilience when faced with a difficult task or situation
Assign unfamiliar tasks to push and test their skill level
Invite high potential employees to professional development events and industry groups to develop their wider business knowledge
In a training environment test emerging leaders with business situations to see how they might tackle and resolve senior management challenges
Embrace failure and create an atmosphere where people feel safe in experimenting and learning from mistakes.

Consider employee rotation

A good experience based leadership development tool is the rotation of employees across the different parts of your organisation. The advantage of these assignments is that it gives high potential individuals exposure to all aspects of management, an understanding of the different roles and functions in your organisation and a unique perspective to take forward into any leadership position.

Create networking opportunties

The ability to build and influence networks is vital to any leadership role and a critical skill for any potential leader.

Support and encourage all employees to network. It is how we learn to forge new connections, initiate conversations and act with confidence, as well as build a contacts list, profile and credibility.

Ideas to start developing networking skills for high potential employees could include:

Training sessions or networking courses
Opportunities to branch out and meet with employees they don’t know Shadowing leaders
Sitting in on senior meetings
Invitations to company and industry events

Monitor, measure & reward

A critical success factor to your organisation’s leadership development programme is to facilitate regular constructive feedback, monitor performance and reward excellence.

Start by holding informal one-to-one meetings to discuss an individual’s goals, development plans and performance. This is an opportunity for employees to share their thoughts and any concerns as well as receive constructive feedback and credit for their achievements.

Ideas for rewarding success include offering further development opportunities, new responsibilities or financial incentives.

Acknowledging and valuing an individual’s contribution will drive their motivation to succeed and a commitment to your organisation.

Offer coaching support

Offering your emerging leaders guidance and advice in the safe environment of a coaching session is invaluable to their personal and professional development.

In a one to one meeting with their coach they have the opportunity to reflect on their development plan progress and ask what has gone well, what am I learning, how might I do things differently. It is a chance to review activities and adjust behaviours to ensure they stay on the right track for career progression.

Coaching techniques can be used to reinforce a growth mindset, address any fear of failure and promote confidence in their abilities to keep going.

Be innovative in education & training

Offering excellent training opportunities, for personal and professional growth, can be a key differentiator between companies when attracting and retaining the best and the brightest to your organisation. Stay ahead of the competition by using leading edge technologies to deliver training in a personalised, innovative and interesting way. Whilst conferences, classroom based learning and lectures all have their place consider webinars, digital learning and action learning techniques.

Look to develop a training programme that focuses on the skills and attributes you require from potential leaders. Focus on developing communication, problem solving and delegation skills whilst also cultivating soft skills such as collaboration, emotional intelligence and critical thinking.

Mentor your talent and let them shadow leaders

Shadowing current leaders in your organisation gives employees first hand experience of a leadership role, exposing them to the realities of how leaders think and act. It also offers an opportunity for them to network, build relationships and raise their profile with senior management.

Develop a mentoring programme that pairs potential leaders with more senior employees who are on hand to offer advice, guidance and share their own experience of reaching a leadership role. Ensure there are clear guidelines to determine when they meet, how often and opportunities for informal communication outside of the mentoring session. Clearly define the role each party will play and the shared expectations in developing their relationship.

For a mentoring programme to work these relationships need to be cultivated and evolve into a supportive and trusted partnership. It should be a rewarding experience for both parties involved.

Be inspiring

Some of the most successful leaders will say it was their unwavering passion and belief for what they were doing that got them ahead of the pack. It is often this message that is the most inspiring to others.

The talent within your organisation will want to be passionate about what they do and be surrounded by others who feel the same. Foster this passion and encourage employees to connect with one another, choose projects that interest them and actively seek new opportunities and challenges. Create an environment that removes fear of failure, celebrates success and promotes purpose.

Developing passion in potential leaders will be one of the biggest factors in the success of your leadership programme.

Lead by example

Leadership starts at the very top and sets the tone for the behaviour and attitudes of other leaders coming through the ranks. Your organisation’s leaders should remember that they are the best example to follow for the role. They have the influence in a positive but also negative way to shape the future of your employees.

Ensure that your leadership team is cohesive, transparent in their actions and committed to the success of your organisation. Support your existing leaders with the tools and resources to be confident, courageous and inspiring.

Remember maximising the potential talent within your organisation is a long term commitment to their professional development but the rewards are great and will ultimately boost profits and growth.

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