How can I develop up-and-coming leaders?

Three simple strategies to grow others – and your business, too

Don’t you love this quote from the late great Jack Welch?

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

It’s so true – but unfortunately it’s not reality. Companies just aren’t good at equipping their people to become great leaders.

According to research by Brandon Hall, only 5% of companies have a leadership development program at all levels of their organization – even though 83% say it’s a need.

It’s even worse at the managerial level. Just one quarter of managers say they need to prioritize the growth and development of the people who work for them.

That’s just plain wrong!

The best leaders see the development of other leaders as one of their primary responsibilities. 

Why? Because the best way to grow a business is to surround yourself with great people who can make big things happen.

The numbers back this up, too.

study by TeamStage shows that employees who received leadership training saw 20% better job performance. And Gallup reports that talented managers double the rate of engaged employees, earning 147% higher earnings per share over the competition.

In other words? The more leaders you have in your organization, the stronger your organization will be. 

If you want to develop MORE great leaders, then keep reading. I’ve got three simple ways you can develop that next wave of leaders in your organization.

1. Try a coaching mindset

To develop more leaders in your organization, start with your own mindset.

Instead of thinking like a boss, try thinking like a coach instead.

What’s the difference? Bosses tell people what they’re supposed to do. Coaches help them figure it out. Bosses supervise performance, but coaches analyze it and speak into it.

Look at every interaction with your team as a chance to coach.

For example, the next time someone gives a presentation, break it down afterward and help them improve it. Offer your own experience to help a team member navigate a situation you’ve already been through.

When you think more like a coach and less like a boss, the dynamics change. People see you’re rooting for them. They understand that you all win (or lose) as a team.

That’s the kind of supportive environment up-and-coming leaders need to grow and succeed.

2. Cede control on decisions.

You take the joy of the job away when you take away people’s ability to make decisions.

To develop leaders, you’ve got to cede some control and let them make important calls.

David Gibbs is a phenomenal leader who understands this principle so well.

Recently, I got to sit down and talk with him on my podcast, How Leaders Lead. He’s the current CEO of Yum! Brands – that’s KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Habit Burger. And, as you may know, it’s also my former job!

In order to customize menus to local tastes and cultures, David gives more decision-making power to local leaders who understand all those factors.

“The power of giving people control in the field is immense,” David told me. “So I’ve learned, when in doubt, to rely on higher grade people and rely on them in the field, rather than trying to control things from the center.”

He’s so right. Decision-making is at the heart of leadership, so find areas in your company where your up-and-coming leaders can prove their own expertise.

But remember: don’t just extend that decision-making trust blindly. Make sure you’re also creating clear expectations and a process for accountability. That way, you can empower your people while still protecting your business.

3. Be intentional about time and training.

Of course, it’s easy to say leadership development is important.

But it won’t happen unless you are intentional about it. It will take valuable time and resources – starting with your own schedule.

Leaders spend significant time planning and following through on the development of their people. It is never an afterthought!

Does your schedule reflect the importance of developing your leaders? Do you have a system in place to regularly sit down with those you lead? How do you track their progress and follow through on their goals?

You’ve also got to be intentional about training opportunities. Try creating “stretch assignments” for your most promising leaders.

These challenges – a new project, an additional function, or an opportunity to get involved in a different department – get people out of their comfort zones and into situations where they can grow and be pushed.

According to SHRM, it’s a top strategy to screen for leadership abilities. But once again, it will take your intentional planning to make it a reality.

Finally, I highly recommend you find an organized way to teach your high potential leaders what you know.

At Yum! Brands, I codified my own leadership processes and lessons in a course called Taking People With You. I taught it to more than 4000 Yum! team members and nonprofits around the world.

(By the way, you can take this same course for free! Really and truly free. Get access here!)

Intentionally carve out the space to organize your own expertise so you can easily impart it to others.

Here’s a fun bonus: doing this won’t just train up others. It will also help YOU grow. Teaching what you know reminds you of what matters and forces you to walk the talk!

I can’t say it enough: The greatest leaders I know develop more great leaders!

But in the day-to-day demands of running an organization, it’s easy to lose sight of leadership development.

Don’t let it become an afterthought. If you do, your teams will stagnate. You’ll struggle to hold onto your top talent. And your organization won’t accomplish big things because you won’t have the leadership it takes to get them done.

But the very fact you’re reading this tells me you care enough NOT to let that happen! I hope these lessons give you guidance to develop more great leaders in your organization.

December 27, 2022