The best leaders, the ones developing field leaders, won’t be the ones standing around at the water cooler. They are the ones working to get things done. But they don’t get things done by doing everything themselves. They start by looking around at the people they are responsible for leading and assessing their strengths and weaknesses.
A good leader knows that the people around them may possess strengths that the leader does not and is willing to allow people to be good at what they do. A good leader also assesses areas that need to be improved. Developing these areas will go a long way to creating new leaders. The challenge in developing leaders is to construct the environment and situations which will challenge people to develop and stretch their knowledge and abilities, even allowing them to fail — without significant consequences.
Once a challenge has been met, it is important to do two things: The first is to review what worked and what didn’t. Respectful dialogue and healthy debate can be part of a process that can improve not only the field leader, but the entire organization. The second is to go out and try again. In Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, the research is presented showing that people who are expert at their chosen task have practiced it for more than 10,000 hours. Trying again, assessing, improving, and trying again has been called by many different names over the years – from Total Quality Management to After Action Review; it is a proven method for exercising, growing, and building capacity.
The leaders who develop other leaders get things done. They don’t give up. They create challenging opportunities. They continuously act, learn, and improve. They put the well being of the organization and their people ahead of their own interests. They are committed to doing excellent work, work that makes a difference and is sustainable over time.