What will leadership look like in your company in the next five, ten, twenty years? Where will your leaders come from? Will you hire outside the company or train from within? And when you find driven employees who understand the company mission, how do you mentor them into new leaders? Valid questions. Whether you’re the top-of-the-pyramid CEO or sitting comfortably in middle management, no doubt you’ve thought about what your department, or the company as a whole, will look like under the next generation of leadership. Grooming them now gives you a head start on shaping that future. So let’s get started. We have a list of four basic skills that are vital to leaders in the 21st century. The fast pace of technology trends and innovation makes these traits all the more important to your business. Use these when you’re mentoring and you’re sure to find they result in more well-rounded leaders who earn the respect of their peers.
Teach them to fail.
That’s right. Let your leadership candidates take risks and fail. Of course you don’t hand them the company reigns and let them steer it into the ditch. Oversight is important, as is the project scope. Give your candidates projects that challenge them, but that also won’t break the company if the project fails. Serious candidates use the experience to learn a lot about their own social skills, organizational skills, and task tracking.
Teach them to seek out data.
Information is power. And as fast as technology moves, nobody is expected to know all the answers. Finding the answers, however, is a key skill. Also, teach them to gather data from people around them. Take opinions of people affected by the project, or who are in oversight positions, and make an educated decision based on data and feedback. In the same way a political leader will tap their expert advisors for opinions and raw data, your leadership recruits should use the resources around them. Informed decisions are better for the company.
Teach them to be coachable.
Coaches are observant, offering guidance, alternative ideas, and wisdom they’ve gained through years of trial and error. Coachable people take all those things with gratitude, and work to incorporate them into their own work. To be coachable is to keep an open mind, see things from someone else’s perspective, and to know when you’re in over your head. That doesn’t mean blindly following, of course. Good leadership candidates will not only graciously accept advice, but they’ll also test it against their own experience.
Teach them to pay it forward
Each generation of leadership builds the next. By mentoring future leaders for your company, you assemble future building blocks of success for your company. Candidates should do the same as soon as they’re in positions of leadership within the company. It brings everything full circle. The key is to start a culture of paying it forward, so that higher level management always mentors the middle management, and the middle mentors the new leadership candidates. This way of continuously training the next generation sets up the culture of paying it forward.
Training your next generation of leaders need not be weeks of retreats and paying for MBA’s. When you setup the culture of “knowledge is meant to be shared,” you set up your company for success. Use these four lessons in your mentoring and watch your company leadership blossom.
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