I was reading an article titled How To Measure And Develop Great Leaders. It was a pretty interesting, though short, article that talked about the need to help potential leaders, once you assess them, to learn how leadership actually works so that when they're ready they won't have to go through the challenges that most new managers have to deal with.

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Of course it was also a sales piece to promote their own assessment tool, but there's nothing wrong with selling and educating at the same time. The premise was still sound, that being once an assessment has identified potential leaders, the real work has to begin in training them.

At that point the article ends; I did say it was short. So, we're left with having to come up with our own rules for how to train people to be leaders. Luckily, I'm here to help fill the gap. As always, I'm not here to give it all away, but I will mention 7 things companies need to consider doing once they identify candidates.

1. Talk to the potential leader

This is probably the most critical step, yet most companies don't actually do this. It's fine to identify someone as a leader; it's another to assume they want the responsibility.

In talking to some younger people, I've found that many of them don't want the responsibility of being a leader for many reasons. This means competency isn't enough; don't ever force anyone to become a leader.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't continue working with them on their proficiency to do the job, which is always important. What you'll find is that, whether or not they want the responsibility of leadership, people will be drawn to go to them asking for help. This means that even if they don't want the title, they'll accept the responsibility when their peers approach them.

2. Establish who will be the main mentor

Hopefully, if the person works under you then you'll be ready to accept the role. However, sometimes companies use tools to identify leaders, and it's possible that those employees don't report to managers who are that good at it. This means companies have to walk the tightrope between possibly moving an employee to work with someone they consider a good leader, while mollifying the manager they have who doesn't have the skills and will probably resist the change without their input.

Nothing says potential leaders need to be trained by someone who's already an employee. Even though I don't talk about it much, I've done individual leadership training here and there for both people who are already leaders and people who want to learn how to be better at it. There are always seminars and books that can help, but it's always important for corporation follow up to determine that the lessons they're learning are pertinent to the company's needs.

3. Give the person responsibility tests

The way most companies decide to test leaders is to see how well they can complete projects. That's not a bad way to go if you're looking to see what someone's technical competency is, but it won't get you anywhere towards finding out if they have what it takes to be a leader.

There has to be acknowledgment that proficiency at a job and being a good leader aren't synonymous. They can be if the task a person is commensurate with having to lead others towards a common goal. Otherwise it's just a test of skills; useful in general but not in determining leadership skills.

4. Be willing to pay to send them to seminars

As mentioned earlier, there are lots of seminars on leadership (I sometimes put some on) that will give your potential leaders information they can use to learn how to be better leaders. Don't stop at leadership though; seminars on communications, diversity, motivation and compassion (let that one sink in) should also be a major part of their training.

5. Give them reading assignments and test them

There are also a lot of leadership and motivational books that can give candidates a lot of information. Heck, I've written a couple of them. 🙂

If you're a good leader, you've probably read a few of these types of books. If you have potential leaders read something you've read, you should be able to ascertain whether they understand the concepts in those books based on your own knowledge. Don't overdo it though; a chapter here and there should be enough.

6. Motivate, motivate, motivate

As a leader, you know that sometimes it can feel like a pretty lonely place. Always let your prospects know whether or not they're doing a good job, but always give them positive motivation to keep going and see the bright side of being leaders.

Also, encourage them to ask questions and share their feelings when they feel it's necessary. The days of someone being an emotionless and cold leader are over; people want to work with a leader who treats them as a person, if not an equal.

7. Set them up to talk to other leaders and potential leaders

Allowing potential leaders to see multiple styles lets them figure out their own style of leadership that they can live with. We all have our own personalities, and though there are some leadership concepts that are absolute, it doesn't do anyone any good to do everything that someone else has done if they're not comfortable with it. We wouldn't want to develop a company filled with phonies now would we? 🙂