Good Leaders Grow Leaders

What makes a good leader? There are a lot of different ways people will attempt to answer that question, and most of those responses will make valid points. Good leaders cast vision. They inspire. They communicate well. There’s a long list of traits we could share. One that shouldn’t be overlooked, though, is this: good leaders grow good leaders. 

As Jack Welch, former CEO of GE once said, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Good leaders don’t just grow their business. They grow their team. They mentor. They champion. They encourage. They provide constructive feedback. They cultivate other leaders.

Encourage Experiments and Creativity

Your team members have great ideas. Some of those ideas will prove successful additions or adaptations to your business model. Some won’t. You won’t necessarily know which outcome a particular idea is destined for until you give it a trial run. Create an environment that invites feedback and creativity. 

When someone on your team has an idea, hear it out. Work together to test it for viability. Seems like it might be worth exploring forward? Then make a plan to test it in a pilot application. 

Giving your team space to problem solve, to explore new markets or ideas, and develop new processes gives them the confidence and tools to take on more responsibility. It gives them ownership. It builds their leadership skills, and at the same time, brings some great benefits to your business.

Give Feedback 

Sometimes experiments fail. Sometimes they succeed beyond our wildest imagination. Sometimes our team members struggle to adapt to a new task. Sometimes they excel. In all cases, take the time to provide feedback. Don’t wait for an annual review. Don’t wait until a small challenge becomes a big problem. Make a point of providing your staff feedback. 

Offer affirmation, not just correction. Provide instruction and guidance, not just criticism. For example, “I noticed your last email to the client had some glaring typos. That makes us look bad,” isn’t helpful. Yes, it highlights the problem, but it doesn’t fix it. The alternative may look more like, “Hey, I noticed that sometimes when you’re on tight deadlines, you can become prone to typos in your communications. There are some tools we can get that would help you scan your emails and messages for basic grammatical errors. Why don’t you try a few of these and see which works best for you. Let me know what you decide on and we’ll get you set up.” 

Expect Some Failure

Creating an environment that encourages your team to take on responsibility for broader growth and success, requires a culture that doesn’t equate a failed experiment with a negative response. Growth requires us to take chances. Sometimes those chances don’t yield what we hoped they would. Learn what you can from the attempt. Brush off the dust and move forward. 

Foster Learning

We don’t live in a static world. Technology advances. Culture shifts. Business models adapt. The world we learned to work in when we were pursuing degrees or certifications will eventually evolve into something different if it hasn’t already. And if it already does look different than it did when you were learning, guess what, it’s going to change again before you’re ready to retire. 

As leaders, we should be looking for ways to grow our skills, to reskill as technology and culture changes require, and to learn new skills. We should cultivate a business culture that encourages our teams to do the same. 

Be Trustworthy 

Experimenting, learning, and taking on new responsibilities requires an environment where team members feel safe stepping outside their comfort zone. They need to trust you to communicate expectations, to provide honest and constructive feedback, and to not fear or punish failure. 

Being a leader that grows leaders, that invests in growth of their team and their business, means being trustworthy. It means being dependable and fair. It means communicating clearly. It means modeling the habits and behaviors you’d like to see in your team.