Building your Bench: Why Develop Leaders?

“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.”

~Sun Tzu

My wife tells me that I could begin every blog with a quote from my favorite strategist, Sun Tzu. I think she’s on to something! I also love to quote Walt Disney (“it all started with a mouse…”) – now there’s an interesting contrast!

So, this Sun Tzu quote really is interesting to me. Though I’d like to note that as a father of three daughters, I’d personally adapt it to “look on them as your own beloved daughters” but hey, that’s a bit nit-picky. The point is incredibly valid and applies not only to soldiers, but also to followers in any profession. So, how do we treat our followers as our own beloved daughters (or sons)? What’s the difference between this and simply treating them as our children? Well, that’s the focus of this article. Today, I am going to tell you that developing our followers’ leadership skills will make them feel beloved. Taking that keen interest in their future – not just how they impact the bottom line – will pay tremendous dividends. These men and women will follow us to the end.

Small Business – Keep Up the Great Work!

Developing leaders is something that should be done by every organization. Yes, I mean EVERY one. It does not matter if you are a multi-national conglomerate, a national government, a local association, or a sole-proprietorship. You need to develop your team – even if that is an Army of One. I am very excited to see that recent research on leadership development spending is increasing in small business across the country. The 2014 Bersin Leadership Development Factbook benchmarked a trend showing that while U.S. businesses increased overall leadership development spending by 14% (which is terrific news) the majority increase was found in small business at 23%. In light of this exciting development, I want to dedicate this article to my friends in small business. Here’s the message: Develop your leaders!

Money is Tight – Give Me One Good Reason!

Well, since you asked, I’d love to share not only one reason why you should part with some of your hard earned dollars and invest them in your people, but three.

The first reason is to improve employee engagement and having engaged employees is critical to an organization’s success. Consider that a high-performing young man or woman that you have working in your company right now. You know she’s got great potential but you’re just not sure if they’ve got all of the necessary experience to become a leader in your organization. From their perspective, they know that they’ve got what it takes and they’re chomping at the bit to prove it. So it looks like you to have a common problem–you need to be able to develop their leadership skills in order to make them happy and upwardly mobile as well as to fulfill your need for a future leader in your organization. When you train this person you show them that you have taken a special interest in their success. When they see that you have invested hard-earned dollars into their future, a light will go on. As long as you keep feeding their hunger for new knowledge it will be like those beloved daughters I mentioned earlier. There are also other tangible benefits to be found such as improved retention, higher morale across the organization, and a happier workplace. Remember, happy employees are productive employees– which brings us to my second good reason.

Second, is productivity. All of these satisfied and motivated followers will be excited about using their new training to move your organizational goals forward. Leaders who understand how to engage with their teams, to deal with conflict, to communicate, to delegate, to hold effective meetings, and the myriad of leader skills that can be taught will be spending their time moving your business forward rather than using trial and error techniques to accomplish these things. Remember, leadership is learned – and everyone can do it.

The final reason is profit. Because of these reasons, the bottom line is that having a solid leadership development strategy is a sound investment. Among the many studies that support this premise, our friends at the Center for Creative Leadership found that there is a much higher probability of increased profits when a strong leader development program is initiated.

Who needs it?

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine who in your organization most requires leader development. The easy answer is that everybody needs, But that’s not often the most practical answer. I like to recommend that you focus your leader development dollars where they will bring you the most benefit. In many cases, the executive team and senior level management have already had a great deal of experience and training, So this may not be the best place to invest scarce resources. Mid level managers and below are often a good place to look, in my opinion.

To let’s talk just a little bit about the various levels and why they can use this training. I’m going to begin with the high-potential personnel, also known as emerging leaders. These are the people that are described above who you know have something about them and they’ve caught your eye as someone who can pick up the mantle of leadership in your company. These people may have very little training and before you actually put them in charge of the team, you would be wise to provide them a basic toolkit leadership skills. If it proves successful in that training, you’ll know that they may very well be successful in practice.

One of the most often forgotten groups of leaders when it comes to training, are those entry level managers. These men and women are already in charge of anywhere from maybe 7 to 12 people. They’ve been promoted because they excelled at what they did or they were a fresh hire out of college. This is a individuals who are trying hard but may just need some exposure to some of the tried-and-true techniques that a good leader development program can provide. The training itself will be similar to the high potential group, but the urgency to get these entry level managers trained is much greater.

For both of these two groups I recommend training in delegation, leading from the front, cross functional communication, basic business professionalism, conflict management, and the like. These are the basic blocking and tackling skills the new leaders require to truly excel and helping your organization achieve its vision.

Mid-level managers are beginning to see significant increases across the country in training dollar spent, so that is really good news for those organizations who choose to do so. These individuals will likely need a higher level of training, One that provides more advanced skills. At this level, training in things like strategic planning, coaching in mentorship, networking and relationship building, leading change, decision-making, and business ethics will be very helpful.

Do not delay!

The way I see it, the time is now. There is no good reason to delay getting your leaders trained by one means or another. There are many excellent leader development programs offered across the country to include the one offered through our organization, On-Point Strategic Leadership. Whether are you choose to work with us, Or choose to work with one of the other organizations, You’ve made a terrific decision. One that will help your small business grow and in sure that you’re beloved sons or daughters we’ll go to the ends of the Earth for you and your company.

Should you decide to work with On-Point, please find our cost-effective leadership development seminars at

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