I firmly believe every person has the capacity to lead. It all depends on the situation and the strengths of the individual. That is why leadership development makes sense for individual contributors or potential future leaders who may not necessarily have an official management role currently. It’s important to recognize that simply because someone has a title of supervisor, manager, or director does not mean they are a good leader. At the same time a person who exerts influence and leadership skill in a given situation does not need to have any formal or official title for others to follow them. After all, a leader is quite simply a person others willingly choose to follow. An employee assigned to report to a supervisor may do what that supervisor says because of the job, but unless that supervisor is also a leader, the employee is not necessarily willingly choosing to follow.
Now, back to individual contributors and potential future leaders. I recommend several leadership development options for this group of people right from the beginning, and then other training will come into play when they are in a more formal leadership role.
- Communication Behavior Preference Assessment. I recommend everyone should seek out assessment tools that help them discover more about themselves, their personality, their behavior preferences, their communication style, and how to adapt and develop their style to achieve their desired outcomes.
- Emotional Intelligence Understanding. This is something I wish I had learned about when I was just starting out in leadership roles decades ago. At that time the research into EQ was only beginning, and the results of the ongoing research clearly shows that individuals who are able to master the skills of emotional intelligence can have a profound leadership impact on others.
- Followership. Learning to be an effective, collaborative member of a team or group of people who have come together to solve a problem or develop a solution without necessarily being in a supervisory or leadership role is an essential skill everyone can benefit from. Training surrounding effective teams, collaboration, conflict resolution, and problem solving are essentials of this type of training.
- Setting and achieving goals. Understanding the “why” or motivation behind what you want to accomplish, establishing goals that tap into this motivation, and building the discipline to work toward and achieve those goals is important for anyone at any level. Time management and prioritization is also helpful.
- Critical Thinking. The key to being a problem solver or solution creator is to be curious, ask questions, dig deeper into problems and issues, and learn to discover the root cause of matter. When someone learns to do this rather than reacting to every problem with a quick-fix or band-aid solution, they become a valuable asset to any organization or team regardless of whether they have a management title.