By: Santanu Bhattacherjee
It was during my initial days working as a Team Lead, when I asked my coach, ‘What should be my number one priority as a leader?’ His answer was this beautiful quote by Roy T Bennett:
“Great Leaders Create More Leaders”
One of the best parts of growing as an industry leader is you get a chance to nurture future leaders as well. Mine is also not an exception. While most of my days’ time goes into my regular work with the product engineering team, I also take some time out to help shaping up my team’s future leaders. Those who can learn from me and then take up bigger responsibility as they grow.
Is it tough to tap into the potential of young talents and groom them to turn them to a great leader?
Not exactly. All it needs is to follow a structured way of guiding them. Read on to understand how I manage it thru four simple steps.
Providing opportunity: First and foremost, you must create an opportunity for them. An opportunity to lead. It can be a small project, a prototype program or even a limited period initiative. To start their leadership journey, you need to provide them the stepping-stone. And once you provide them the opportunity, keep backing them. Don’t let the fear of failure push them to the edge. When you start nurturing your future leader, back them up for anything and everything. Removing the fear of failure is the best way to allow them flourish.
Empower and Motivate: The second step is to empower the leaders. Don’t micromanage them. Rather, encourage them to take decisions. Show them that you trust them. At this point, they are prone to make mistakes. Use those mistakes as a learning lesson. If required recommend required upskilling. This is also a great time to share your experience with them. Share your knowledge, the critical situation you handled, what lessons you learnt from those incidents etc. That way you will also be able to motivate them.
Take Risk and move out of Comfort Zone: By the time you are done with step 1 and 2, you will find many of the young leaders are becoming good with their tasks at hand. They will be able to lead the pack effectively and brilliantly finish the projects or programs. This often leads them to a comfort zone where they tend to cherry pick the work, they know they are pro at. For example, if someone is very good in managing AI based project, they tend to pick assignments around that. Or if someone is very good in vendor management, they might choose to align them. You should try to ensure that your future leadership teams are never falling into that trap. Don’t let them settle. Give them tasks where they are not comfortable. And then support them to cross the hurdles.
Continuous feedback and Continuous Coaching: While you are creating opportunities and building the confidence, it is also important to share continuous feedback with them. Constructive feedback that can help them identify their areas of growth. At this point you have to offer them strategic coaching too. You can act as their coach. Or you can help them identify a leadership coach for themselves. This is a critical phase of their leadership journey. Choosing a right coach matters the most. Once they are thru this phase then provide them the next level of opportunities and let them repeat the step 1 to 4, this time with the help of their coach.
Once they have gone thru this cycle of tasks multiple times, you will start seeing the mature leaders emerging out of each of them.
To wrap it up, as a leader, one should balance their priority between meeting organizational goals and nurturing the young leaders in the org to create a formidable leadership team. Remember, you can’t win the race alone. Be a great leader and create more leaders like you and win the game as a unit.
*Views are personal