Companies spend a lot of time, effort and money investing in facilities, technology and operations. These are important investments, but not nearly as important as developing people. John Maxwell, leadership expert and coach, is a New York Times best-selling author whose latest book is “The Leader’s Greatest Return: Attracting, Developing, and Multiplying Leaders.”
According to Maxwell, developing leaders helps to grow an organisation. There are a lot of variables in business, but people are one of the constants. “You need people to run a business, so it makes sense to invest in those people and help them fulfill their potential,” he says. “Investing in leaders grows your organisation because it is the one activity that compounds a leader’s time, influence, energy, vision, culture, finances and mission.”
In fact, Maxwell says a company can’t grow throughout until its leaders grow within. “The lid on any company is its leadership—companies will only grow as far as their leaders will let them,” he says. He believes complacent or stagnant leadership keeps anything from rising up or growing. “However, if a company has growing leaders, then every time those leaders grow, they raise the lid a little bit,” he explains. And they also give the company extra room to grow. “Any organisation with leaders who consistently grow will be an organisation with consistent opportunities for growth.”
Work yourself out of a job
Some leaders are hesitant to develop other leaders because they’re afraid these individuals may one day replace them. Maxwell says, however, that your goal should be to work yourself out of a job—and he’s done this himself on several occasions.
“In my experience, whenever I’ve worked myself out of a job, there was always another job to take its place,” Maxwell says. “I’ve found the same is true for the leaders I’ve developed: whenever they began working themselves out of their job—growing themselves while developing someone to replace them—I began noticing other roles or opportunities that might suit them.”
In fact, he thinks this is the case in most companies. “If you show initiative, growth, leadership and results, you’ll find more doors opening to you than you’ll find closing.”
Doug Conant, founder of Conant Leadership, has served in the senior ranks of leadership for over 20 years, including as president of the Nabisco Foods Company, CEO of the Campbell Soup Company and Chairman of Avon Products. He is also author of the New York Times bestseller, “Touch Points: Creating Powerful Leadership Connection in the Smallest of Moments.” Conant says the guiding principle that has helped him succeed across organisations is this: leadership is all about the people.
“Many leaders are aware of what they hope to get from leading—an increase in pay, more responsibility, greater prestige, etc.—but far too few are aware of what they hope to give,” he says. “When you think about what you can contribute—how you can help people perform, grow and thrive—you are able to evolve cultures and transform organisations.”
The first step is to acknowledge that you need leaders, and Maxwell says many leaders have no idea how much they need other leaders to help them. “They’re the kind that prefer to think they can do everything themselves—and they have a short shelf-life.”
After you realise you have a need, you should know your specific need. “It’s one thing to say you need more leaders, but what kind of leaders do you actually need?” Maxwell recommends having a picture of what leadership looks like, which will allow you to effectively measure candidates against it.
The next step is to determine who has leadership potential. These may be individuals inside or outside the organisation. Attitude and ability are both important considerations. “Over the years, I’ve always had a diligent recruitment strategy aimed at attracting, engaging, developing, leveraging and retaining talent,” says Conant. “Once I had the right talent in place, I was able to focus on building high-performance teams that met my ‘three Cs’ criteria: high character, high competence and high chemistry.”
Attitude is more than just being cheerful. It’s selflessness, empathy, growth and sacrifice. Collectively, Maxwell says it is good character that holds all of these traits together.
“Once you have your picture of leadership, it’s a matter of attracting those leaders to you,” he says. So, how is that accomplished? “I find that the best way of attracting leaders is to offer them a chance to join you at your ‘leadership table’—offer them an opportunity to ride shotgun with you as you lead.” And Maxwell says you’d be amazed how many leaders are looking for that type of opportunity.
Perspective thinking can help to develop leaders
Leadership is a people business, and Maxwell says you can’t develop people unless you understand them. “That’s where perspective thinking comes in; good leadership requires a shift from thinking ‘it’s all about me’ to ‘it’s all about we.’” While leaders have a tendency to view the world through their own perspective, he says the world looks different from the perspective of the people you’re leading.
“We are responsible for learning to see their world through their eyes, to develop enough empathy to appreciate how they feel, and then lead them from where they are, not where we are.” Once you start seeing through the eyes of others, he says you can teach others to do this as well. “And when that happens, we expand everyone’s vision and thinking,” Maxwell says.
Before you can lead others, you need to learn how to lead yourself. “I think leading yourself … really begins with asking yourself what motivates you,” Maxwell explains. Since you’ll naturally lead yourself toward your motivations, he says identifying them is key. Maxwell believes there are six motivations for leaders:
“I personally am motivated by all six. There’s not an item on that list that doesn’t get my engine going, which means I have ample reason every day to lead myself well.” And the more reasons you have for leading yourself, Maxwell says the more likely you are to do it well. “Growing as a leader, getting better incrementally on a daily basis, is a commitment that requires motivation and a lot of inspiration as well.”
This content was originally published here.