The Key to Developing Leadership in Others

by Susan Mazza | Posted | Leadership

The Key to Developing Leadership in Others

We need more leaders — people who'll be the example and provide the guidance and motivation for your organization to achieve its aspirations.

It can be disheartening to hear the same old complaints surface, yet not see enough individuals stepping up to do something about them.

It can be frustrating when too many people are sitting back, waiting to be told what to do.

It can be maddening to watch people who you believe are fully capable, fail to demonstrate leadership among those who are ready and willing to follow their lead.

The question is: what can you do about developing leadership that you haven’t perhaps already tried?

A twist on the old leadership wisdom

For years, common wisdom from Management 101 Training has suggested that leaders encourage people to come to them with a solution, rather than a problem. This was an admirable attempt to encourage people to be independent and work to solve their own problems before passing them up the chain of command. It was thought to be a way to cultivate leadership in others.

But in today’s organizations, perhaps the real goal should be to cultivate more ownership of the problems and challenges faced so employees can act with you.

How do you do that? The answer is simple: listen.

When developing leadership, it's not what you listen to but what you listen for

What will make the difference, however, is not what you listen to, but rather what you listen for.

Question: What do you listen for when people are telling you…

… stories about what happened or what went wrong?

… the reasons why things are hard or they can’t get done or be done?

… people’s complaints?

Do you listen for what’s broken and start to think about how it can be fixed? Do you listen to find the flaw in their thinking, so you can correct it? Do you even sometimes even pretend to listen while finding a way out of the conversation as quickly as possible?

What you should be listening for is their passion.

Foster leadership by listening for commitments

This requires you to listen for something more because the key to bringing out the leader in another person, to engaging them in sharing the ownership of the future, is to listen for their commitments.

If you want to bring out the leader in anyone, you must first know what matters most to them as an individual. What motivates them to be and do their best? What keeps them up at night and why does that matter so much?

Consider this…

Behind every persistent and passionate complaint is a commitment. If the person wasn't committed to something, it probably wouldn’t be worth complaining about.

Commitment powers leadership

The key to empowering someone to solve a seemingly intractable problem is to help them get in touch with what they're committed to. It's their commitment that makes solving that problem so important that the only choice left is to find a way.

So refrain from just listening to the problems and complaints, offering guidance for how to deal with them, or listening for what’s broken and how to fix it.

Instead, listen for why it matters to the person and what solving the problem or addressing the complaint will make possible for the future. Help them connect with their commitment and their ownership and leadership will likely follow.

Learn to do this consistently and you might even find your people will start leading you.

What about you: Are you in touch with your commitments?

Frontline Managers: Are They Given the Leadership Tools to Succeed?

A Harvard Business Review report on leadership development

Download Now

Frontline Managers: Are They Given the Leadership Tools to Succeed?

A Harvard Business Review report on leadership development

Download Now

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