Effective leadership is often the deciding factor between success and failure. A great leader can take a mediocre plan and figure out how to obtain optimal results, while a poor leader can take a great plan and doom it to failure.
Many companies that enjoyed the rewards of a strong leader find themselves struggling once that person leaves. There may be no succession plan in place, or internal candidates may not have been developed. The chaos created by losing an effective CEO, president, or other leader can be avoided if you have a plan to identify and develop your own leaders.
Determine the Leadership Style Your Organization Needs
One mistake that organizations commonly make is the failure to evaluate whether an individual is a good match for the company or the position. For example, to be effective, the curator of a natural history museum would need a different leadership style than the director of corporate security. Whereas the first could be actively involved in all projects to the point of micromanaging, the second must master the art of effective delegation.
Determining the leadership style your organization needs requires a careful evaluation of the company's culture, the type of responsibilities the leader will have, and the complexity of the work. Only then can you identify candidates possessing the qualities that they will need to succeed.
Identify Potential Candidates
The process of identifying potential candidates should begin as soon as an individual is hired. The first step is to identify the competencies needed for each leadership position and rank each competency in terms of necessity. Some of the competencies you might want to consider include:
• Ability to find creative or innovative solutions
• Ability to analyze and interpret facts, whether derived from statistical data or interpersonal relationships
• Ability to adapt to change
• Ability to make decisions within a reasonable time
• Ability to cope with setbacks or changes
• Willingness to cooperate with others
• Ability to function as part of a team
• Ability to organize thoughts, workflows, teams, or processes
• Interpersonal skills, such as the ability to communicate with employees of all levels or the ability to resolve conflicts
• Ability to execute a plan
• Communication skills, such as the ability to deliver a presentation or prepare an effective report
During the evaluation process, you should also identify the areas in which candidates need to improve. If you do this sooner rather than later, you will likely have time to tailor a program to allow each candidate to remedy his or her shortcomings. For example, you might identify a strong candidate who lacks only effective communication skills to succeed as a leader. You could discuss this lack with the candidate and encourage participation in a formal class or training program.
Seek Candidates at All Levels
Another common mistake many companies make is to limit the scope of their search, such as focusing only on current members of management. You should include employees who are high performers regardless of their current job level. An employee on the front line who shows potential, for instance, could advance through a series of promotions if properly groomed.
Always keep in mind that every time you promote an employee, you create a vacancy that will need to be filled. Having qualified candidates who can assume these roles can help ensure smoother operations and less disruption.
Creating your own leaders can help ensure the success of your organization. However, the exact methods you will use depend greatly on the nature of your organization and the positions. It is not a one-sided effort; you cannot develop effective leaders without the cooperation of your candidates. Get to know them, learn what motivates them, and treat each as an individual. Not all candidates will live up to their potential, so never rely on a single candidate to fill a position of great responsibility.