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Developing the Leader in You

In November 2014 Roger Trapp wrote the following in Forbes magazine.

No. 1 Talent Issue

The need for leaders is increasingly a preoccupation of business people. Indeed, the need for “leaders at all levels” is one of the 12 critical issues identified in the Global Human Capital Trends 2014 survey by Deloitte University Press. In a paper examining the findings, Adam Canwell, Vishalli Dongrie, Neil Neveras and Heather Stockton – who work for Deloitte – point out that leadership “remains the No. 1 talent issue facing organizations around the world,” with 86% of respondents to the survey rating it “urgent” or “important.” However, the fact that only 13% say they do an excellent job of developing leaders at all levels means that this area has the largest “readiness gap” in the survey.

Organizations have long looked for leaders but the Deloitte team argues that, “21st-century leadership is different”. Canwell and his colleagues write: “Companies face new leadership challenges, including developing millennials and multiple generations of leaders, meeting the demand for leaders with global fluency and flexibility, building the ability to innovate and inspire others to perform, and acquiring new levels of understanding of rapidly changing technologies and new disciplines and fields.” No wonder organizations are coming up short.” Trapp, Roger. "Successful Organizations Need Leaders At All Levels." Forbes magazine, May 23, 2014.

The Deloitte study not only reinforces the global search and need for leadership but also clearly establishes the struggle organizations have in successfully developing leaders. If organizations struggle in leadership development then what can an individual do to develop his or her own leadership skills? This and subsequent blogs look to explore some fundamental things people can do to develop their leadership.

Create Confidence

Whether currently leading a team or aspiring to influence and lead others the importance of confidence should not be overlooked. Confidence translates into trust and without trust a leader will struggle to be effective. A strong leader must instill confidence in their abilities and create trust with a variety of groups and individuals. These groups include,

Self Confidence - As a leader it is hard to lead without personal confidence. Confidence should not be mistaken for arrogance. Arrogance will ultimately destroy a leader’s credibility because arrogant people are never as good as they think they are, and they are always the last ones to find that out. The strong, effective leader has high self-awareness, knows their limitations and does not try to hide them but rather supplements for them through collaboration with others. Self-awareness and public recognition of an individual’s strengths and weakness can be liberating to the leader and empowering to those around him.

Management Confidence – Creating confidence by the management team is crucial. Obviously, results will impact management’s confidence of a leader but it is also important that a leader build confidence by demonstrating clear and concise communication skills. They need to be able to share critical information in an appropriate manner. This includes sharing the right level of details to the right audience in a timely manner. The leader also can create confidence by listening carefully to management and understanding their needs and views.

Team Confidence – This group can be the hardest group to convince because they are often in the trenches doing the day-to-day work and closest to the reality and truth of what is really going on. A leader trying to gain a team’s confidence should avoid “blowing smoke” because this group can usually detect smoke faster than any other group of people. Open, honest communication, as I discussed earlier, serves the leader far better than arrogance or deception. Asking for people’s input and thoughts and then actually listening goes a long way toward establishing trust and confidence.

Cross Functional – A successful leader should pursue what others are doing and learning. They should reach out proactively beyond their business unit to communicate, collaborate, and share learning. When others see this type behavior they are not only confident in that leader but they also see the leader as highly credibility.

So by being credible, a leader can create confidence that can ultimately produce trust. Trust is an important aspect of leadership. Simply stated people will tend to follow people who are trusted and management will have more inclination to put trusted people in leadership roles. Make sure your behaviors are constantly creating confidence with those around you. It is an important step in developing strong leadership skills.

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