If you're looking for more leaders in your organization, get in line. I can tell you this: everyone is looking for leaders. Or at least everyone says they want more and better leaders. I've had the privilege to work with a good handful of organizations in some form of consulting, and the need for leadership inevitability comes up. Some are much more proactive than others when it comes to filling the leadership gap, but few are successful. Sadly, most fall victim to the basic, "being busy or spending money must mean we are doing something about it" syndrome. Teaching classes, reading books, holding meetings, "calling leaders", attending conferences - so much resource intensive work is funneled towards leadership development. The reality is that most of these don't work. Most organizations, no matter how much of this they do, hardly move the leadership needle. Why? It's not a process problem, and it's not a resource problem that needs to be solved (usually). The problem is a culture that doesn't value, engage, and empower leaders.
Culture is the most powerful organizational development tool available. That's not an overstatement for effect; that's the honest truth. It's scary how little time and resource most of us put into the cultures of our teams. Nothing has a greater impact on outcomes. Culture is the force the drives leaders towards stepping up and culture is the glass ceiling that will hold leaders back from performing. If you want to develop leaders, you better take a hard look at your organizational culture before you send people to another conference.
Culture is the most powerful organizational development tool available.
So, how do we structure and influence culture in a way that it breeds leadership? There are few keys to making this happen:
RISK: Leaders need to know they are in a safe place to take calculated risks. They need to know they have support to try new things. Nobody wants to "lead" if they're going to get hounded for taking risk. That's what leaders do. Of course, depending on the situation and level of leadership this can look very different. Risk tolerance must be part of the culture that seeks to develop leaders.
CHANGE: Leaders typically come out of the woodwork when the opportunity for change is both acknowledged and encouraged. In contrast, a great way to run any potential leaders out of your organization is to resist change and innovation. Great leaders don't lead "policy compliance" movements. If you want leaders, you better get comfortable with encouraging creative problem-solving and embracing innovation.
Great leaders don't lead "policy compliance" movements
TRANSPARENCY: Great leaders need the trust of those they lead. They can't gain influence or traction without this trust. To get trust, they need transparency. Leaders need people to know their accomplishments, both individually and for the team. If they mess up, the team needs to know so they can see humbleness. If a leader accomplishes something individually, the team needs to know to see an example. If the leader accomplishes something for the team, members need to see their Shepherd in action. Without a culture of transparency, leaders can't gain trust and influence, which is the foundation on which they stand.
REWARD: Changing behavior, at its most basic level, is all about reward and punishment. What get's measured and rewarded is what get's done. How are you rewarding leaders, if at all? You need to develop a culture that recognizes and encourages leaders to be at their best. Now, keep in mind, this doesn't mean holding up leaders as heroes over their teams. That's not healthy, and real leaders would find this very uncomfortable. Often rewarding leaders is more subtle. A handwritten letter from the CEO can be a great reward. An education budget to buy books and attend conferences is significant. Recognize them, encourage them, and help them continue their quest to be better.
If your organization is looking for more leaders, this is how you do it. You first create a culture that empowers them. Everything else will fall into place.