How do leaders become leaders? What is the process that shapes their path to maturity and what steps do they need to take to achieve the mantel of success?
Leaders go through developmental phases as they approach maturity, preparing to assume their tour of duty. Like any other developmental process, the stages of leadership development must be broken down into manageable steps. Certain foundation stones must be in place before subsequent ones can be laid. There is a sequential progression to leadership development. Here are five phases that an aspiring leader must consider.
The first stage of leadership development, is where someone may explore the opportunity to step into leadership because their boss notices their potential and opens the door for them to consider a new possibility. Another may sense an inner urge to ‘give back’ and take the initiative to inquire about the possibilities for leadership for herself. In the exploration stage the interested party is considering the idea, trying to determine whether this is her moment to rise to the challenge and learn to lead.
Managers can encourage leadership development by maintaining an open door policy and setting time aside to dialogue and explore with curious candidates. Managers need to be intentional about this activity, as it is all too easy to eclipse leadership development with a busy schedule.
2) Getting Going
The second stage of leadership development, where after someone has decided to go ahead with his or her leadership advancement, it is necessary to find a hospitable environment for skill development. Here the candidate needs a safe place to explore and test his or her strengths, finding ways to develop them. This is a time for self-discovery.
Self-discovery can be both exhilarating and frightening. Seasoned leaders need to be there to encourage and assist the potential leader in his or her process. Leaders in charge need to be secure enough in their abilities to truly attend to the needs of the new learner and not be threatened by this person’s potential growth.
3) Establish goals for growth
The third stage of leadership development, happens after personal strengths have been identified. It then becomes time to establish goals in order to support and apply these strengths. This may involve further education which could take the form of formal studies, workshops or other training events. This is also a good time for the learner to find a mentor to establish, advise and encourage the achievement of desired outcomes.
4) Test your wings
The fourth stage of leadership development. Once certain skills have been identified, the trainee must practice, discerning which behaviors are effective and which ones are not. What works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Here again the candidate needs a nurturing environment. Bosses must be ready to spend time reflecting and evaluating with the aspiring leader, helping him to see where he could improve or change his approach to make it more effective.
5) Shift your self-concept
The fifth stage of leadership development. As the developing leader begins to blossom, she will begin to see herself in a different light, realizing a new sense of autonomy and possibility with her new emerging skills. It is important to embrace this emerging self-identity and not resist it, so that a new internal equilibrium can form.
Developing leaders by going through the requisite stages of leadership development requires a nurturing environment where their talents and strengths can be identified and leveraged. This happens when they can feel valued, acknowledged and appreciated, forming a sound foundation for their ultimate growth. Make your work setting a caring, nurturing place and others will want to emulate your leadership style and become leaders also.