Why are you developing leaders? Sounds like a ridiculous question. But your answer may reveal why you’re not getting the results you want in growing your leadership pipeline.
So, let me ask again, why are you developing leaders? There are basically two responses to the question.
Some will say, “I’m developing leaders simply because we don’t have enough of them!” This is the most common reason organizations revive their leadership development efforts. They feel the pain of a leadership shortage and need to fill the gaps. Their current leaders can’t get everything done, their span of care is unhealthy, and the organization’s mission is suffering due to a lack of leaders. The motivating factor for leadership development is the pain of a leadership shortage.
However when we’re driven by pain our tendency is to pour short-term efforts into building a new batch of leaders with the hopes of solving the problem as quickly as possible. Organizations with this mentality find themselves in a yoyo cycle. They focus on leadership development for a season, have inconsequential results and then neglect it for a season. The pain resurfaces so they refocus on leadership development, once again have inconsequential results and go back to neglecting it. Rinse and repeat year after year. For these organizations leadership development is a necessary evil not a deep conviction. And when there’s not a deep conviction around leadership development your efforts and results will be inconsistent.
On the other hand some say, “I’m developing leaders because I see talent in my team members that can be developed.” Unfortunately it’s rare to hear this type of response. For these leaders it’s not about the pain of a leadership shortage. The motivating factor for leadership development is the leadership potential seen in others.
When we’re driven by the potential capacity we see in others then leadership development becomes a part of our regular routine. We don’t start with the position that needs to be filled; we start with the person that can be developed. We’re constantly asking our team members: What is your passion, what are your strengths, what are your dreams? We instinctively look for development opportunities for these individuals. We’re eager to spend time with them. We celebrate the small baby steps of their growth. Over time we proudly handoff responsibly and authority. And the big win is not filling a position; it’s seeing someone maximize the potential of his or her leadership giftedness.
When our driving motivation is seeing others reach their potential then leadership development becomes a natural and consistent part of what we do not a necessary evil of our job.
So as you chew on this thought let me offer up another question to consider: Would you still make leadership development a high priority if all your leadership positions were filled?