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Prerequisite for a great leader

Illustration by Creativity and Innovation Keynote speaker, Simon Banks.

Illustration by Creativity and Innovation Keynote speaker, Simon Banks.


Dr. Stephen Brown, an Australian educator, made this statement and it has a very simple power.

You may be a leader by virtue of position and by virtue of having direct reports but do you have leaders working for you who are mentoring and coaching and producing leaders?

My daughter works in the advertising industry and from the very beginning of her work experience, it was clear that she not only had to learn her job and perform well but she also was not going to be promoted until she had taught someone her job. And she had to teach her job well enough that if she was promoted, she was free to do the new job.  And by the way, her first performance review was one of the best, most thorough performance reviews I have ever seen. It was a coaching document all on its own and it not only addressed how she was performing in many different aspects of her job but it also addressed how she was mentoring her direct report, a summer intern in the most junior position in the organization.

Our clients in the mining industry are fanatical about safety and one of the requirements of first-line supervisors, was to lead a “safety share” every morning and at the beginning of every shift.  The safety share is a way to model awareness, teach about the work that the team is to tackle that day and to create a team that helps each other be safe.  The supervisors also ask team members to contribute a safety share of their own from time to time and everyone takes a turn. This is another mechanism by which responsible leadership gets modeled and passed on.

In the finance industry, the same principles apply. Another of my clients, a senior director in an accounting organization, spoke of how he developed his staff.

I typically hired them for their technical skills and of course they had an implicit mandate to keep current. In fact they were far more likely than I to be on the leading edge of technical knowledge. However, the more important and less obvious development path for them was to grow their maturity, their seasoning and their leadership skills. I sent them on courses where they would be stretched and challenged and where their world view would be broadened.”

He went on to say that when it was his time to move to a different city, there were three high-performing potential candidates for his role. And the one who got his role has continued to grow and impress while the other two went on to different and exciting roles elsewhere in the profession.

What are you doing to create leaders in the people who report to you? Have you been filling the ranks with real bench strength? And are their leadership skills as well developed as their technical ones? If so you are well on your way to being a great leader yourself.


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