Some people are born leaders. From a young age, they exhibit the qualities one typically looks for in a good leader: They're passionate, show integrity, inspire and motivate others, and have a strong take-charge attitude. Employers and executives recognize this, and these "born leaders" are often first in line for promotions to leadership roles.
But individuals who have leadership potential don't simply become leaders overnight. It's up to existing leaders to train the next generation, showing them how to guide a group of people toward a specific vision or goal. Whether your company has a structured training program or you simply teach by example, here are a few key things to keep in mind when you're training future leaders.
Choose the right person
While certain individuals may seem like shoe-ins for a leadership position based on their personality or their current role within a company, it's crucial to take all performance and experience factors into account before determining their leadership candidacy.
"Before you start teaching and enhancing the skills of a leader, you have to start with the right person," said Brian Sullivan, executive vice president of sales and management training firm Sandler Training. "This person should have a track record of success [in their current role] and have already exhibited leadership traits. Not everything they'll be doing as a leader is necessarily something they've done before, but these two fundamental items are the springboard for any type of training."
Sullivan also told leaders not to allow favoritism to come into play when choosing a successor, and make a decision based solely on a candidate's qualifications.
Build their listening skills
One of the most important skills a leader can acquire is how to listen. A true leader always takes his or her team's feedback into account when making decisions. This skill can be taught by being a good listener yourself.
"Always listen to the input you receive, and act on it," said Guryan Tighe, chief culture officer of Highwire Public Relations. "If you have only your own agenda in mind, you can't truly hear others' input and potentially, the next great idea. Make sure your business is set up to stimulate people around you to create and take initiative. For example, ask the trainees about their training experience, as this encourages an environment focused on growth and development."
Help them craft a future vision
"Vision" is a word that is commonly thrown around in reference to leaders, but what does it really mean? Denise Brosseau, CEO of Thought Leadership Lab, believes it involves the ability to inspire others to see a future worth striving for.
"[Leaders should] focus on crafting a compelling vision of the future that they will work to bring about," said Brosseau, author of "Ready to Be a Thought Leader?" (Jossey-Bass, 2014). "This future must be something they are passionate about, but they must also have the credibility and experience to make progress toward achieving it."
Teaching leadership candidates how to create and articulate their own future vision will help them when it comes time to actually execute plans to get there.
Find a leader works for everybody else
If a leadership candidate seems more excited about being "the boss" who's in charge of others, he or she probably isn't the best person for the job. A good leader knows that his or her job is working for everybody else, said Dale Falcinelli, chairman of the advisory council at Lehigh University's Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship.
"Leadership is an executive club, and it shouldn't be taken for granted," Falcinelli told Business News Daily. "Leaders aren't caught up with the notion of people working for them. They'll have the passion and drive to get where they need to go, and they'll know that to get there, they have to work for and through other people."