If you manage people, you’re a leader and you want to lead well. I mean, you’re a leader for a reason, right? You know better than anybody else that you didn’t get there by mistake.
In a well-oiled business, especially an established franchise, mediocre managers can see the business grow despite their (lack of) management and direction. By operating an existing system they can usually deliver on their targets but it’s rare that they’ll ever become great at what they do.
Take a look at the founders of the fastest growing FTSE / Fortune 500 companies.
They all have one thing in common that seems to be missing in the managers who fail to make an impact. Want to know what it is?
The Best Leaders Create More Leaders
“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates
The single most important factor in whether a manager will become a great leader is in the team they lead. The greatest modern leaders and founders (from Howard Schultz to Elon Musk) created great managers who in turn created more leaders within their team and went on to achieve stellar results.
Not convinced? Here’s an interview with Howard Schultz himself, breaking down his own success as a leader.
If you aren’t already doing this, creating leaders can be learned and the concept is relatively simple. Your goal is to discover and discuss the leadership traits that are valued most among your team and then give them the tools they need to demonstrate those values.
I know. It’s far from an earth-shattering revelation, but it’s simple, it works and you can start applying it today.
Discover Leadership as a Team
If you’re more of a doer than a thinker, give me a moment to explain why the discovery process is so important.
This isn’t just an exercise in discovering what works theoretically but one that should be founded on the idea that leaders lead by action. You’re not building a list of what a good leader looks like on paper.
Instead, you’re drawing from your own experience, events that have happened, events that could happen and the like. Collectively brainstorm on how you think a good leader would respond in those situations, By focusing on actionable traits, these discussions drive progress and that’s why this step can’t be skipped.
Start off by building your own list. Take time to write down actionable leadership traits on your own before discussing them with your team. Think about the leaders you’ve come across in your life. Who has influenced you to be the leader you are today? And conversely, can you think of any leaders who you distinctly remember lacking in leadership traits?
Then meet with your team. Open up the discussion. This is a great time to grow together as a team. Let them voice their opinions about what works and what doesn’t as a leader. Be bold enough to ask them about what ways you’ve been lacking as a leader.
It’s troubling to do this and it may cause you to feel vulnerable but one thing good leaders do is they don’t pretend to be perfect or have all of the answers. You may have to defend yourself or you may have to agree to work on yourself.
Either way, you’re taking the time to listen to your team and that’s a trait inseparable from being a good leader
Giving Your Team the Tools They Need to Succeed
How ready are the members of your team to move into a leadership position, right now?
Do you have a contingency plan in place for the sudden loss of a key team member? Are there other people on the team prepared to take on the absent team member’s responsibilities? And if you were suddenly unable to perform your duties, for whatever reason, would your team be ready to cover all the ground that you do on a daily basis?
If the answer to any of these questions raises an issue, then it’s likely you’re lacking the systems required for people to lead should they ever need to. Even with a clear vision of what a leader is and the best intentions, a lack of systems will make it near impossible for anyone taking the task of managing and moving the company forward.
To create leaders, you need to give your team the tools they need. You’re going to do this by setting up clear systems.
Make Building Systems Take Priority
If you don’t already have systems in place for the tasks that the members of your team perform on a daily basis, have your team members prioritize creating them. By making simple step-by-step guides and making them readily available, each team member can learn the next one’s activities and jump in when necessary.
A system doesn’t have to be complex and can be as simple as a list of bullet points in a text document or a screencast video of you explaining how a software tool works.
These systems should be simple enough that anybody could step in and perform the tasks. Test the system by having someone go through it with no experience in that particular task. If they do it successfully, you know it’s working.
By implementing these systems, you’re making your team stronger, more confident and more leader-like. As the work they do becomes more natural to them, they become better at making important decisions, paying attention and thinking ahead.
Being a Leader Isn’t Easy
While the process is simple, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to execute. It will take time to solidify leadership traits in your team members and it will take time to implement systems until things run efficiently.
But you’ll see growth like never before.
And the best part of all of this is that you will be the one growing the most.