Leading a team of young, vibrant, and enthusiastic individuals might prove to be a daunting task, so that it is often difficult to make successful leaders of everyone. And while not everyone is built to take up leadership positions, there is always that one, or more, member of your team you feel is set up for the inevitable eventually.
Those members of your team who mirror certain potentials of everything you possess as a leader, and that it is only a matter of time before they become one. But leadership is like fine art; it takes a lot of time, persistence, learning and unlearning, to become successful at it. And here’s the question, how do you make the best leaders out of such people and make them better versions of yourself, bearing in mind that there are certain inadequacies of yourself you do not want to transfer to them too?
There are different arguments on whether leadership is an innate ability or a thing that can be nurtured. The answer to this is irrelevant when you are trying to make new leaders of your team. No one starts to succeed at leadership immediately.
Think Walt Disney and Henry Ford. Good leadership requires a lot of qualities, many that require you to learn them. While there is no singular way to raise new leaders, the following tips should help you make the best of raising a competent leader in your team.
Pragmatist or Idealist: Creating A Balance
Many teams and organizations contain different kinds of people and from different backgrounds. Some of which makes us unique in how we make certain decisions. As a leader, you already know that members of your team are either pragmatic or idealist (which is good for your team as there’s no one way to get work done). But which category do your potential leaders fall into?
Have they shown tendencies to become pragmatic leaders who believe in making decisions on the practical, rather than theoretical aspects of goals or objectives? Or an idealist leader who is more likely to float with “what happens in the end is all that matters” and that all goals can be met. In this case, as a leader, who is also a mentor now, you should make serious efforts to creating the best of leaders. He or she must realize that life is not a one-way lane and that compromises must be met sometimes.
It may be dangerous to be on the extreme in whatever school of thought they belong to. And this is what Pravin Gordhan, a South African Politician and its former minister of finance, echoes when he says about leadership and the world requiring special kind of leaders, “…who balance romantic idealism, which is important, with pragmatism that converts idealism into reality.”
Results indeed matter to a leader, but special and great leaders must be able to create a balance in whatever frameworks they have laid down to reaching a set goal. The journey to be a great leader is a tiring one, as you, the leader, already knows. And occasional failures, sometimes many, are major ingredients of what makes it so weary. But it is what births many great success stories. It won’t be surprising, however, to find some members of your team unreceptive to failure.
You must therefore make your prodigy(s) realize that failure is an inevitability if they want to be successful leaders. A great leader is someone who has failed in one capacity or the other before. Robert F. Kennedy, before he died, once said, “Only those who fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Now, this is not to excuse failure, it is to help emerging leaders have a consciousness of the reality of failure and that they would encounter it more than once when they become leaders.
It is true that no one wants to fail, but it is also true that we fail, so that we may succeed most times. In the same vein, you must help those by discussing whatever failures they have had. The why? How? What should be done? questions must be asked and discussed among members of the team. No one should feel inadequate for making mistakes or failing blatantly.
It is okay to want to oversee everything that goes on in your team in a bid to see that things are properly done. But sometimes, when raising a new leader, you just need to sit back, relax, and watch them do everything they’ve been asked to do, on their own. Independence is important in leadership, as much as teamwork is revered. You do not want to raise a leader who cannot stand on their own.
Emerging leaders are not supposed to be babysit all the time; they are future babysitters and must learn the art of looking after others and doing it on their own. They must learn how to handle pressure, carry it in its heaviness, and deliver positive results under its harsh conditions. Sometimes, they would need to imagine you aren’t there, and you imagine you aren’t there either.
This teaches self-confidence as effectively as other methods you might have on your list. When you allow emerging leaders to do things and make certain decisions on their own, it gives them a sense of responsibility and trust in their own abilities. What this essentially means is that leaders must first learn to lead themselves before they are able to lead others.
Michael Hyatt in his book, Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want, made it clear that, “how we lead ourselves in life impacts how we lead those around us.” While Isrealmore Ayivor, author of The Great Hand Book of Quotes, furthers, “Those who distrust their own abilities are being too wicked to themselves…if you are good at discouraging yourself, you can’t be a good leader, because leadership is built on inspiring others to face challenges.” Too much babysitting may therefore be a shell for enclosing the potentials of emerging leaders.
Giving them considerable freedom to do certain things would help you realize those that believe in themselves and those who mistrust their abilities. In the case of the latter, you will therefore need to set remedial plans in motion. Building emotional intelligence is the sixth sense of any leader; the ability to manage emotions. You must help emerging leaders realize this, as well. It is a core in leadership that extends to both the leader and members of his team.
You cannot afford to have a team whose emotional wellbeing is oblivious to you. Emerging leaders must be able to tell when they, or their team members, are having a bad day. The success of any collective endeavor is an exponent of your emotional radars as a leader, which must always be active. It doesn’t have to be immediately perfect. You are a leader, but human. It can be built over time, especially in your formative years as an emerging leader, by being self-aware. Followers become confident of a leader who shows a lot of care and affection towards them.
Theodore Roosevelt amplifies this by saying, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Empathy is a great asset every successful leader must possess. There is a phase of project management, based on the Prince2 framework, where members of a project come together after a project, or each milestone, and discuss lessons learned from the work done.
The team listens to members of the team share experiences, successes, and failures inclusive. This is not done because they just want to have a sit-down. It helps to avoid members making mistakes that have been made before. In the same vein, this means two things that can be applied in other teams. Firstly, as a leader, tell your story often, so that your followers and potential leaders get a hang of things to do when they hit a roadblock in their endeavors as leaders too.
Secondly, as an emerging leader, you must be a religious listener. The experiences, good or bad, of others might serve as the light for you to become a successful leader in the future, shaping the decisions you take when you hit similar snags. It’s been said several times that Rome was not built in one day. Leaders are not built in a day, as well. Mistakes will be made, and lessons will be learned.
And as a leader who wants to birth another leader, it is your duty to create the best atmosphere for development. That an emerging leader didn’t turn out like they were supposed to must not be your fault. However, an emerging leader in their formative years must realize that they are ultimately responsible for the type of leaders they become. Willingness to learn and hard work and following the tips above are major ingredients for growth.