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7 Strategies for Developing Leaders in Your Company

Thursday February 29, 2024

Female leader leading a leadership development training seminar in front of a large group of employees

Leadership development is an important component of organizational success. Investing in current and future leaders is an excellent way to build trust, as well as equipping your team with important skills that will benefit your employees and organization alike.

Here’s an overview of seven key strategies for developing leaders in your organization.

The Importance of Human Leadership

Before developing a leadership training program, it’s important to understand what type of leadership you’re searching for in your organization.

According to Gartner, 90% of HR leaders believe that in order for leaders to succeed, they need to approach leadership by focusing on the human aspects.

There’s an increasing emphasis on leaders treating their employees like humans, rather than components of their organization.

Unfortunately, only 29% of employees feel that their leader approaches leadership in this way.

According to Gartner, human leadership comprises the following:

  • Authenticity: Purposeful and intentional leadership that enables self-expression for yourself and others.
  • Empathy: Care and compassion for others, and prioritization of others’ well-being.
  • Adaptability: Provide support for each team member’s unique needs

Respecting team members’ individuality and treating them like humans is more likely to create a psychologically safe environment, which has been shown to increase innovation, team adaptability, and inclusivity.

7 Strategies For Developing Effective Leaders

According to a recent article from MIT Sloan, an effective leadership development program has three pillars:

  • Vision: What skills or qualities does the program foster in participants, and what goals does it seek to achieve?
  • Method: What’s the curriculum or learning method the program is built with?
  • Impact: What outcomes does the program expect will be achieved?

If you’re selecting a leadership development program, it’s important to make sure it adheres to each pillar to maximize impact.

Leadership development isn’t just about programs, however. Mentorship and role-modeling are excellent ways to foster the traits you’re hoping to see in future—or current—leaders.

Whether you’re building a leadership development program for your company, or simply want to take steps to foster leadership characteristics in your team, here are seven key strategies for developing successful leaders.

1. Promote Leadership Development at All Levels

Leadership development isn’t just about training future leaders. It’s important to develop leadership at every organizational level, including existing leaders.

That’s because one of the best ways to train others is by demonstrating the leadership qualities you want to see. Especially in a larger organization, developing leadership qualities from the top down and encouraging mentorship is a great way to build leaders.

According to Gallup, managers are responsible for 70% variance in both team engagement and performance. Furthermore, only approximately one-third of managers understand how their individual performance impacts their opportunities to advance in their companies.

Gallup advises that company leadership takes the following steps to develop leadership qualities in managers:

  • Recognize leadership qualities: Recognize and appreciate managers—and individual employees—for leadership qualities. This can inspire others and reinforce the value of these traits, which is especially important for new managers.
  • Give new managers leadership opportunities: Give new managers the opportunity to perform key leadership tasks—such as performance reviews, leading product development, or handling customer complaints. Coach them through the process to help them recognize the leadership qualities they’re using, and how to apply them to other situations.

Taking these steps can help ensure that you’re setting your team up for success in the long-term.

2. Take a Holistic Approach to Leadership Development

Developing the technical skills and competencies you want to see in leaders is important for leadership development. However, technical skills are only one component of effective leadership.

According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), one of the elements of a successful leadership development program is cultivation of broader characteristics. These include:

  • Self-awareness
  • Resilience
  • Empathy
  • Adaptability

These traits are applicable to a wide range of situations. Given the unpredictability of business, it’s vital for leaders to be equipped with the skills needed to handle unexpected situations.

Furthermore, these skills are beneficial for leaders to grow personally and professionally. The technical skills required for their position might be replaced as technology advances, but the broad leadership skills can be applied to any position moving forward.

3. Prioritize Psychological Safety

As you’re developing leaders in your organization, consider how your program helps foster a psychologically safe environment.

According to McKinsey, leaders have the biggest influence on creating psychological safety.

In psychologically safe organizations, employees are more likely to:

  • Innovate
  • Achieve the benefits of diversity
  • Adapt effectively
  • Feel comfortable requesting help
  • Share suggestions
  • Challenge unproductive processes

McKinsey reveals that three key leadership behaviors to promote psychological safety include:

  • Consultative: Leaders request feedback from their team, and give ample consideration to suggestions
  • Supportive: Leaders treat their employees with respect, and demonstrate concern for their well-being as well as their job performance
  • Challenging: Leaders encourage their team to challenge existing assumptions and push themselves to reach their potential

Research shows that when organizations invest in leadership development, they’re more likely to experience a psychologically safe work environment. In addition, employees are 64% more likely to perceive senior leadership as inclusive.

4. Help Leaders Overcome Psychological Barriers

Although many leaders seek continuous self-improvement, not everyone is receptive to leadership development.

Research from HBR revealed that people who felt a strong sense of self and were highly conscientious were the least likely to experience positive change due to a leadership development program.

According to HBR, this could be the result of these individuals already exhibiting strong leadership skills and therefore having less need of leadership training, but it could also be the result of overconfidence.

Confidence and self-appreciation are good traits in leaders. However, when they aren’t willing to pursue self-improvement, these psychological barriers can prevent further leadership development.

To combat this, it’s a good idea to personalize your program to meet the objectives of your individual leaders. This can prevent redundant information. It’s also important to manage your team’s expectations in advance to prepare them mentally for leadership training.

5. Model the Behavior You Want to See

As you’re training leaders in your organization, model the behavior you’re hoping to cultivate in them. This helps give your employees a point of reference as they’re developing their own leadership competencies, and helps enhance your credibility.

Research from McKinsey shows that leaders who demonstrate the behaviors they want to see across an organization can foster psychological safety at scale. Not only does it help prospective and current leaders learn, but it also gives your team the benefits of effective leadership.

McKinsey highlights several key skills that are important for senior leaders to model to create a more inclusive environment, including:

  • Open-dialogue
  • Fostering team relationships
  • Situational and cultural awareness

Ultimately, if you don’t demonstrate the leadership skills you’re hoping to develop in others, it’ll negatively impact your team’s confidence in you, and hinder your leadership development efforts.

6. Focus on Key Leadership Skills

According to research from Gallup, there are seven key leadership skills every leader should possess. These include:

  • Relationship-building: Building team trust and fostering a culture of shared ideas
  • Employee development: Helping employees become more effective by developing their skill sets
  • Driving change: Embracing change instead of remaining stagnant, and aligning change with a stated vision
  • Inspiration: Encouraging employees and boosting their confidence through recognition and positivity
  • Critical thinking: Making smart decisions based on available information
  • Clear communication: Ensuring your team is provided with the information they need in a timely and concise manner
  • Accountability: Holding one’s team and oneself accountable for performance

By prioritizing these skills in leadership development programs, you can ensure that it has the biggest impact on success.

7. Promote Inclusivity

One of the most important components of an effective workplace culture is inclusivity. If your team members don’t feel like they belong, they’re less likely to share ideas, pursue growth in your company, and collaborate effectively with others.

In addition to combating explicit and implicit biases, leadership development programs should help leaders learn inclusive behaviors. As Gartner puts it, inclusive behaviors should feel actionable, not additive.

An excellent way to accomplish this is by safeguarding against potential biases by making the wrong things harder. Adding what Stanford Professor Bob Sutton calls “organizational friction” to non-inclusive practices can help promote inclusivity.

For example, using gender-neutral language in job descriptions, or conducting blind assessments of candidates for jobs or promotions can prevent implicit biases from influencing decisions.

Develop Leadership Skills With Teamraderie

An excellent way to begin equipping your team with the skills they need to be effective leaders is by leveraging Teamraderie’s extensive list of experiences. In addition to instilling valuable skills, these live, virtual, expert-led experiences are excellent for relationship-building.

Consider leveraging our chatbot, TeamraderieGPT, to find which experience would work best based on the outcomes you’re hoping to achieve.

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