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It can get lonely at the top. Everything rests on your shoulders, and there never seems to be enough time. Sound familiar? The answer might be right under your nose—a potential leader among your staff. He or she could make your job easier and free you to focus on growing your small business. Learn how to identify employees who could be good leaders and then develop their talent so they can take on a leadership role in your company.
Employees already know your business. They understand whom you market to and what you have to offer. And they know the inner workings of your business. That's what makes them ideal leadership candidates. Developing them also promotes business continuity so that one day you can leave your legacy to a strong leader.
Leaders come in many sizes and shapes, but they often have similar characteristics. Start with these guidelines to identify employees with leadership potential:
Look for potential, not just performance – Just because an employee can run circles around everyone else doesn't mean they would make a good leader. Go further and look for leadership potential. Do they wait for someone to provide direction or do they step forward and offer their own solutions? Do they volunteer for additional responsibilities?
Watch for influence – Look for how they impact fellow employees. Are they able to get a group of people excited about something? Do other employees turn to them for advice or assistance? Do they seem to like that role? These are the building blocks of influential leaders.
Listen for emotional intelligence – Good leaders first understand what triggers their own emotions, then use that insight to understand others. They have the ability to rally around the greater good rather than their own self-interest. That means they can listen and then predict what impact their actions might have on others.
Think you might have a budding leader on your staff? Here are some ideas to help them grow that potential so they can become an even more significant asset to the company:
Provide context to learning – Google waits until an employee has been in a leadership role for three months before providing formal leadership training. That way they have some real-life experience to apply to what they learn. To start, they provide basic training first in areas like giving feedback and being a good coach.
Plan for regular, two-way feedback – One-on-one sessions can be a great way to provide feedback to an employee who's taking on a leadership role. It also gives the person a forum to ask you questions. That two-way dialogue helps them learn when to move forward and when to change course. It also ensures that you maintain consistency with your culture.
Practice what you preach – One of the best ways to develop leadership talent is to lead by example. Being a good role model means acknowledging your own strengths and weaknesses. Look to other resources to supplement your weaknesses. It might be pairing them with another employee or a community resource. For example, local Chambers of Commerce often offer leadership programs.
Find stretch assignments – Give potential leaders a work assignment that goes beyond what they normally do. Maybe it's drafting the weekly work schedule or planning your social media posts for the month. Look for opportunities that match their own development and career goals.
Decide to delegate – A simple way to develop leadership is to delegate leadership tasks that you currently perform. For example, have the staff member conduct part of a staff meeting. Remember, the individual may not do it the way you do (they may do it even better). The important thing is to provide feedback, so they learn from the experience.
Leadership can be a shared responsibility—if you find the right person. By recognizing and providing development opportunities, you can expand your leadership bench strength and use it to grow your business.