Where Does The Next Generation of Leaders Come From?
Leadership is like a torch which is passed from generation to generation and it’s the obligation of the current generation, to prepare the next generation to carry it forward.
Leadership is about delivering results, about getting our teams from A to B, but during this process we need to find the time to develop the next set of leaders.
There are many ways that we can help develop people, one of my favourites is to lead by example, to show people what good leadership looks like, and then to delegate tasks and empower them to be able to follow suit, and learn how to implement the things they have seen.
This requires us to share our leadership, to give up a little, which some leaders find difficult to do, but if we don’t give people the chance to learn, how will they progress.
Leadership development programs are great, but we learn more from doing than we ever do from reading or listening, even if we listen to experts.
Imagine learning to swim, you can learn a lot from many sources, but it’s not until you actually get in the water and swim, that you really know what it means to swim.
I really like the swimming analogy because, as with swimming when delegating leadership we need to make sure that we don’t put people in deeper than they can handle. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t push the envelope, but when we do there needs to be a support structure in place, this could be direct support in the form of coaching, or indirect in the shape of mentoring.
To just push people in the deep end, and to then leave them sink or swim, is not leadership development, this not how we pass the torch onto the next generation.
However, in my experience, this has often been the approach, people get a little bit of training and are then given leadership roles with little to no back up, and if they fail then it’s claimed that leaders are born and not made, and clearly this person was not born to be a leader.
But this is just a cop out, an excuse to hide our poor leadership development behind.
With the right training, and the right support and encouragement, the majority of the people can become leaders, irrespective of their birth circumstances.
But to admit this, and to accept it, is to take ownership and accountability for developing the next generation of leaders, but too many leaders just don’t want that burden, they are in leadership for what they can get out of it, they don’t see it as service, one which is a two-way street.
This is not to say I haven’t worked for leaders who didn’t give back, who didn’t look to pass that torch on, because I did, but they were in the minority.
The rest, well they just took what they could, and left the next generation to fend for themselves and then criticised the lack of quality coming through the ranks.
When we lament at the lack of leaders coming through, or the weakness of the next level of leadership, we should understand that we are not criticising them, we are actually criticising ourselves, because their development is our responsibility.
I have even worked in companies where the leadership training budgets were capped in tough times, in order to boost profits, but this is short term thinking, selfish thinking.
The stronger the next generation of leaders, the stronger the future of our companies,and profits will be, and as the current generation of leaders it’s our moral obligation to facilitate and encourage their development.