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I attended a seminar last week about reinvesting in manufacturing.  One of the most interesting parts of the seminar was a panel discussion with a group of regional business leaders.  A member of the audience asked what these leaders do to attract, develop, & retain the best & brightest people in their businesses.  There were a number of interesting answers, largely revolving around identifying who those future leaders are and communicating to them the fact that they were regarded as such.

The “ah-hah” comment though was when one of the panelists said that as CEO his primary job was to develop leaders.  There were a lot of other things listed is his official biography – business development, customer relations, etc.  But developing leaders was what he identified as #1.

I agree – but it got me thinking:  what does that mean?  How do you develop leaders?  If you google “developing leaders” you get 378 million hits, so apparently there are lots of people with ideas.  How the leader goes about developing other leaders is a book-length topic, but here’s some quick ideas:

#1 – Identify your potential leaders.  Before you can develop your leaders, you first have to identify who those leaders might be.  Who are the people that really excel?  Who are the people who are really engaged?  Who is able to see the big picture?  You also have to be able to identify people who want to lead.  Not everybody is interested in a leadership position.  Do you know what your people aspire to?

#2 – Give them the knowledge they need.  They have to learn about and understand their strengths and weaknesses as well as those of the other people in your organization.  They have to understand things like trust and communication, vision and accountability.  They need to understand how the business works, what has to happen for your business to be profitable, and what’s going on in your industry.  

#3 – Provide them with a network.  Do your future leaders have mentors?  What about a support system?  One thing many younger leaders lack is a group of peers they can use to bounce ideas off of, lean on for accountability, etc.  Do your future leaders have that?  

#4 – Give them the opportunity to change their world.  A big part of leadership in the 21st century is seeking out, embracing, and implementing change.  Are you giving your future leaders the opportunity to change the business now?  To develop new ideas for your company?  To lead change initiatives?  It’s something they’re going to have to do – let them start now, even if you start with something small.

Perhaps the most important factor in the long-term success of a business is the ability of that business to continually develop new leadership.  If you’re currently in a leadership position, what are you doing to facilitate that success?  What are you doing to help ensure the long term health & success of the company?  Are you doing your job?
 leadership, leadership development    

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