“Contrary to the opinion of many people, leaders are not born. Leaders are made, and they are made by effort and hard work. “ – Vince Lombardi
Recently we held a session of our internal leadership development program. We had assembled the “next” group of rising stars in our organization for a day to discuss some fundamentals of firm leadership. One of the most significant parts of the day involved a fairly lengthy conversation about the up-and-coming leaders’ vision for their future as well as that of the firm. It was the most interesting and educational part of the day (for me, at least).
As we discussed what these individuals’ ideas were for the future, I wondered to myself how many organizations actually take the time to ask their next generation of leaders about their vision. I’ve facilitated any number of management team meetings & planning retreats where someone raised the question of what that next generation wants. And then everyone wanted to try and spend countless hours trying to figure it out instead of JUST ASKING THEM. Usually, when I would bring it up, they’d look at me like I was crazy and then keep on with the guessing games.
One of your primary jobs as leader is to help create other leaders. One of the primary things that holds back organizations who want to grow is a lack of leadership capacity. There are lots of reasons that lack of capacity might exist, but one of the most common (that most current leaders won’t admit to) is the failure of current leadership to develop the next group. And how can you help them develop if you don’t understand what they want?
Don’t spend your time trying to guess what your future leaders want. You don’t have enough hours in the day to waste them on initiatives you come up with that have no impact. Instead, sit down with your next generation of leaders and just ask them what they want their futures to look like. You’ll find you’ve opened up a whole new world of communication and engagement. And all you have to do is ask.