Skills we need to teach emerging leaders

The surprise snowfall that spring day had stopped just before I dropped my girls off to their public high school. But more surprising than the snowfall was the vision I encountered at the door of the school.

Here I saw the principal and the vice principal of the school shoveling snow off all the sidewalks so the students could move from their parents' cars to the school without having to trek through the wet snow.

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They were greeting the students by name and doing the chore with smiles on their faces. I am pretty sure that most of the teenagers didn't appreciate the gesture, but I did.

Three things struck me:

1. A principal was mentoring a vice principal in leadership, though the vice principal is a great leader himself.

2. Two leaders that were not too high on their horses to stoop down and serve.

3. The example this was setting for all the other staff in the school.

These are things that we don't often see in business but we should. The reason that we don't often see them happening in organizations is because we have not adequately trained our staff. Our emerging leaders flounder in mediocrity because we have not taught them the necessary skills for success. Too often we expect those we promote to leadership roles to naturally possess the skills they need to do the job.

This situation can arise; when we take our best salesman off the floor and make them our sales manager; when we expect a successful money manager to be able to be a successful people manager: when we put the first warm body we find into a vacant management position.

How do we train our emerging leaders in the skills that will lead them to victory? Focusing on these five skills will help in the development of great leaders:

1. Communication: Great leaders must be great communicators. This doesn't mean that we need our best talker to be a leadership trainee, rather we need people who can learn when to listen, ask the right questions, and speak words of encouragement and motivation to their staff. These are skills that can be taught and systems in our companies that we can implement in order to have our emerging leaders thrive

2. Accountability: Not only do we need to keep our emerging leaders accountable, but we need to teach them how to keep their team members accountable as well. Many emerging leaders have never been taught the skills necessary to manage staff and earn their respect. Making the transition to management can lead to heartache and loneliness if we fail our leaders in this way.

3. Time management: moving people up in our organizations without giving them the skills to manage all the projects, paper, and people in a timely manner will lead to burnout, or worse a broken home life. Often, hardworking new leaders, while trying to please the boss and move up in the company are unable to sensibly manage their time. They are unsure how to prioritize tasks, and more importantly the work/life balance that is crucial in order to successfully establish the future of our organizations.

4. Servitude: Great leaders serve their people in such a way that they are able to remove roadblocks to their staff's success. This doesn't mean that they micromanage their staff or worse yet do all the work for them. Just the opposite, we need to teach our leaders strategies to empower their people by supporting their efforts. When leaders do this, the whole team succeeds. How often do we fail our leaders by giving them a grand title while neglecting our service to them?

5. Mentorship: Great leaders mentor and coach their team members to be able to do their jobs better so that they can achieve success in their roles. This is not a skill that comes naturally for many people but something that needs to be taught. As leaders ourselves we need to embody that skill in mentoring our emerging leaders to their own heights.

Are there other issues? Of course! We need to teach emerging leaders how to determine our organization's success measurements and how to reach these targets; how to understand and communicate with our stakeholders; when and how to plan for the success of our company, and all the details of the systems that have enabled that success.

The key message here is that we must spend the time, energy, and effort necessary to ensure that the emerging leaders in our organizations have the tools to be truly great leaders. Imagine if the next generation of leaders learned from our mistakes and were able to lead them to a higher level than we ourselves were able to achieve.

How much better would our companies, organizations, and even the world be.

How many more principals would we have shoveling snow and leading by example?

Dave Fuller MBA, is an award-winning Business Strategist and Coach and the author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Email your leadership questions to dave@profityourselfhealthy.com

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