Building leaders

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In my last few blogs I have been discussing a number of leadership behaviors and traits, some which are clearly appreciated by all of us and some which on surface look like behaviors which leaders should not indulge in, are critical to success in a leadership role. In my last blog, I discussed a critical leadership competency, which is to make things simple. The main idea of that blog was the ability of good leaders to take a complex issue and convert it into a simple list of action items which their teams can follow.
In this blog, I am picking up another leadership competency/behavior which is to build leaders. This thought connects to the theme of the earlier blog of simplifying complexity as once a complex issue has been converted into a list of action items- next level leaders are required to execute these action item to ensure that the job is done.
In the army, from my days as a young lieutenant to a commanding officer of a regiment, the greatest focus area was of developing leaders across all levels in the organization. This was necessitated by the unique operating conditions of the army where one had to be prepared to take over a senior role in seconds if not minutes. In an operational scenario, it takes a bullet less than a second to initiate succession management.
But why is it important for leaders to develop leaders in the corporate world?
Most organizations have the choice of either building leaders internally or to get laterals, however, one of the most important advantage of building leaders within the organization is their alignment with the organization culture. In my consulting career, I have seen multiple cases where a well qualified and previously successful leader has failed to get results in a new organization due to the inability to understand and adapt to a new organization culture. Culture defines the way things are done in an organization and if a leader is familiar with the culture it is a definite advantage.
As we go up in the hierarchy of an organization, it becomes more and more difficult to look at all the critical items on our plate. The only way of effectively executing all that a leader has to do is through delegation. And to delegate, you need another capable leader at a level below you who can get the job done once broad parameters and timelines of a task are defined. For all critical tasks, who would you prefer? Someone whom you have mentored and developed or someone who has joined your team from another organization.
Most studies done on the subject of employee engagement are unanimous in their findings, and that is that the productivity of engaged employees is over 50-75% higher. Research has also suggested that companies with a structured leadership development program have higher engagement rates. Similarly, research has also suggested that internal leadership development programs increase employee retention and reduce turnover. As leaders therefore, it is imperative that we focus our attention to developing more leaders in the organization so that both these aspects are taken care of.
The last aspect which I want to talk about is employee motivation and productivity. Most employees come to work with the aspiration of rising to leadership positions in the organization. Internal leadership development programs have been known to increase motivation and productivity across the organization resulting in better profitability.
Having established the need to focus on developing leaders in an organization, the key question which comes is How?
As I look at it, successful leadership development programs have the following ingredients:
a. Top leadership involvement and support. The complete development framework should have “overt” support of the senior leaders in the organization. They should communicate about the importance of this framework and their commitment to contribute to the process. Interactions with senior leaders on a regular basis have to be a critical aspect of the design.
b. Continuous rather than “One off”. The leadership development program has to become part of the organization’s processes rather than a one blip. Employee must know about the next program and the one after the next with timelines and eligibility criteria.
c. Carefully designed to include exploration of concepts, discussion, application and review. The design has to be long term and incorporate all aspects of experiential learning.
d. Have action learning as an integral part of the design. All aspects of action learning cycle and shared learning framework should be incorporated in the leadership development program.
e. Have a concurrent mentorship program to support the future leaders in their growth journey.
f. Transparent assessment and selection process. It is very important to ensure that complete transparency is maintained in the assessment and selection process of any leadership development program. Information about these two aspects should be freely available and disseminated to the relevant stakeholders.
I am a great believer of developing leaders from within for all critical roles in an organization as it brings in multiple advantages as I have enumerated in the earlier paras of this blog. Having said that, it is also imperative to get fresh thought and ideas in the organization and hence a small percentage of laterals should ideally be inducted every year in the organization.
Do leaders in your organization take building other leaders as an important part of their role? Does your leadership development program have the necessary 6 components for success?
Would love to hear your stories.
Rajiv is the principal consultant at R Square Consulting. Rajiv can be reached at for any query, discussion or professional requirements.
About R Square consulting : R Square consulting provides end to end services in the field of building leadership and managerial capability to include leadership development interventions based on a holistic blend of exploration, reflection, action learning and coaching, assessment centers and various Organizational development interventions.
We are a HR consulting firm providing customised and holistic HR interventions for developing the human capital of an organization through:
Executive Coaching
Assessment and Development Centers
Organizational Development Interventions
Leadership and managerial development
Flexi HR support for SME
Pune : Mumbai : Dubai : Dehra Dun

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