Four Ways to Make Leadership Development Part of Your Company Culture

by Heather R. Human, Contributor to Entrepreneur, Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended. Original on Entrepreneur June 1, 2015


It looks like organizations are missing the mark on leadership development.

Only 35 percent of U.S. managers are engaged in their jobs, according to a Gallup’s State of the American Manager report analyzing responses from 2,564 U.S. managers surveyed in September and October 2013.

What’s worse is the disengaged manager epidemic not only affects this generation, but also trickles down to the young people these leaders manage. Gallup refers to this as the “cascade effect,” where an employee’s engagement is directly influenced by their manager’s engagement, which is directly affected by their manager’s engagement.

The workforce already predicts tough times ahead when it comes to filling leadership roles. Only 47 percent of HR leaders said that they have adequate talent to fill new roles in their company, according to Workplace Trends’ Global Workforce Leadership survey of 1,000 HR professionals and 1,000 employees in February and March.

Natural leaders are hard to come by. Almost half of companies surveyed by Workplace Trends said “leadership” is the hardest skill to find in employees. Only 36 percent of employees consider “leadership” a strength in their organization.

The implications are clear. We need to nurture and develop young, engaged leaders to fill roles Boomers and Gen X will be stepping out of in the future. Here are some thoughts on ways we can do this before it’s too late:

1. Clearly communicate vision.

Only four in 10 managers strongly agree with the statement, “This year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow,” in Gallup’s survey. Additionally, only one in three strongly agree with the statement, “There is someone at work who encourages my development.”

The perception of limited opportunities is a big factor in disengagement. If future leaders can’t see what they’re working toward, what’s the point?

Help employees understand the organization’s overall vision so they can look at their job from a new perspective. Demonstrate how their role positively affects their peers and the organization’s goals as a whole. Show them how what they do is more than just a job — it’s a contribution to a greater good.

2. Create a culture of learning and development.

Thirtynine percent of companies surveyed by Workplace Trends offered leadership development programs, yet only 15 percent of employees felt the training they received effectively prepared them for their next role.

It seems the problem the quality of the program or failure to notice learning opportunities . Make employees aware of any growth opportunities right in front of them. Train employees to invest in one another. Encourage seasoned employees to mentor newer employees. Employees who have been at the organization a few months can help mentor brand new employees.

great-managers3. Identify leadership strengths.

Gallup found the majority of highly talented managers (61 percent) said their approach to management is leveraging and developing employee strengths and positive characteristics.

In the report, Gallup identified a rare combination of five characteristics great managers possess. They motivate their employees, assert themselves to overcome obstacles, create a culture of accountability, build trusting relationships and make informed, unbiased decisions for the good of their team and company.

The easier current managers and employees can spot these talents among their peers and within themselves, the sooner they can cultivate them. Provide employees with the tools necessary to identify and craft their natural talents to be used for leadership. Try an app like IlluminatedNation, which accesses employee job fit and provides guidance for each individual’s unique aptitude.

4. Encourage employees to use their strengths every day.

People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job, Gallup found.

Create opportunities every day for employees to do what they do best so they feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose while working toward being a leader. If Bobby is shy but a brilliant problem solver, ask him for his best ideas to resolve a complex issue without putting the spotlight on him during the meeting. Ask Jessica, a natural for speaking in front of groups, to stand alongside Bobby and present his ideas to the team. Find a way to allow each employee to exercise their own unique strengths each day.