Build Leaders in Your Business: 3 Things to Watch

( National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff )

Are your future leaders already putting in the effort for your business? Here are three things to look for to identify those leaders. 

Identifying leaders is a challenge for every business. It’s important to motivate every member of your team to think like a leader, regardless of their job title. Rashan Dixon, co-founder of Technicon and senior business consultant for Microsoft, says you should be teaching your employees to be leaders from day one.

“When seeking new managers and leaders for your company, promoting from within may prove more effective than hiring an external candidate,” Dixon says in Entrepreneur.  

Dixon says elevating someone who already works for you means that individual will need less time to get up to speed. This also causes employees to feel more optimistic about their path with your business.

To identify and develop your business’ most promising leaders now and in the future, follow these three simple steps:

1. Identify employees who take initiative.
Leaders take initiative. Reward employees who come to you with solutions for problems, who step up when a project needs to be done and who look for opportunities to grow professionally. 

“You can’t force participation or improvement on employees who aren’t dedicated to it,” notes Krister Ungerböck, speaker, author and CEO coach. “When an employee doesn’t volunteer for more educational or professional opportunities, that should tell you how well suited he or she is for a management role.”

Invest in people who invest in themselves outside of work. For example, Harvard Business Review said that about one-third of the most successful CEOs in the world have MBAs, so supporting your team’s educational efforts can only help your efforts to grow leaders from within. Offering tuition assistance, flexible scheduling around class schedules and time off for professional development workshops can go a long way, Dixon says.

2. Find employees who show humility.
People who are humble about their work are always open to suggestions for improvement. That lifelong learner mentality is crucial for leaders, Dixon adds. 

“Humbleness comes with selflessness,” says Saahil Goel, CEO and founder of Kraftly. “Once you accept the equality between your team and yourself, it helps in creating a healthy learning environment in the company.”

In addition, psychologist Sherrie Campbell says people aren’t as eager to follow a leader who's perceived as perfect. When leaders make themselves vulnerable, it helps others feel accepted by and connected to them. This encourages followers to become more open to trusting and learning from leaders.

One way to foster humility in your future leaders is to help them gain a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Consider conducting personality and strength assessments with your team.  Improving weaknesses is an opportunity for growth and these assessments can help you start that conversation.

3.  Look for employees who can speak well -- and listen better.
Want to be a great leader? Be an effective communicator. And that starts with being an active listener. Top leaders prepare what they’re going to say in advance, yet they're comfortable speaking extemporaneously -- the ability to think on one’s feet is an important leadership quality, Dixon says.

How can you help your team members be effective listeners? Try dividing them up into small groups and have them work through the story line exercise. In that activity, someone begins a story, then the person next to him summarizes the first few lines and adds to the story. Active listeners should be able to paraphrase what they’ve just heard, and such exercises can help would-be leaders hone that vital skill.

Businesses are complicated. Building a team of leaders will only be a benefit to your business in the end. Identify up and coming leaders now who can help your business move forward so you can capitalize on opportunities in the future.

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