How to Develop Great Leaders at Your Company

by: Christine Blank

28_87233900Everyone wants to be the kind of leader that their employees trust, respect and look up to. Everyone wants to be the calm in the eye of the storm that is often created in our fast-paced businesses – especially those of us who deal with a multitude of customers and residents on a daily basis.

However, that type of leadership is sorely lacking in our country. In fact, one in three employees doesn’t trust their employer, according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer. What a missed opportunity by CEOs, managers and other leadership within our companies! Because employees –not CEOs are among the most trusted of all company spokespeople – according to Edelman. They are the face of your brand, and whom customers look to for guidance. In fact, “the Employee Trust Divide shows there’s a missed opportunity for employers to help their employees be powerful, trusted advocates with consumers,” Edelman said in a statement.

But all is not lost. We can turn the trend around now, and start teaching our company’s leaders – and future leaders – the best ways to lead. Leadership development should not be in some remote class, often at our company headquarters, away from employees’ day-to-day work lives.

Here are the top tips for developing great leaders at your company from Deborah Rowland, author of Sustaining Change: Leadership that Works and a former executive for PepsiCo, BBC Worldwide and other major corporations:

Make leadership learning experiential

leadershipIf leadership development begins in the head, leaders will stay in their heads. We can’t simply think our way out of a habit. But in experience, and novel experience in particular, our intentional mind can be more engaged as we make conscious decisions about our behavior,” Rowland wrote in a recent Harvard Business Review article. It has been proven that people learn most – and retain that learning – when emotional circuits within their brains are activated, she wrote. “Visceral, lived experiences best activate these circuits; they prompt us to notice both things in the environment and what’s going on inside ourselves.”

As a result, leaders should establish “living laboratory” leadership development. “Throw out pre-planned teaching schedules, content, lectures, and exercises that ask you to think about your world and how you need to lead it. In its place, switch to constructing self-directed experiences for participants that replicate the precise contexts they need to lead in,” Rowland wrote.  Use business simulations, unstructured large group dialogues and experiences that challenge participants to self-organize visits outside of their companies to stakeholder groups that matter for their future.

Influence employees’ “being,” not just their “doing”

business-key-with-man-smaller-size-768x878Leaders need to work on the quality of their inner game, or their capacity to tune into and regulate their emotional and mental states, before they can hope to develop their outer game, Rowland wrote. As a result, leadership development education needs to offer “stillness and space for intentional, non-obstructed contemplation,” she wrote.

Participants in this type of leadership training have experiences such as mindfully walking outdoors in nature and sitting silently in peer groups to hear colleagues share their life stories. This “enables leaders to tap into their inner world as a powerful instrument for cultivating the vital skills of purpose, self-awareness, empathy, and acute attentional discipline,” Rowland wrote.

What things are you doing to become a better leader and not just another boss?