If you work or study in the field of leadership, you already know there's a glut of information and ideas. We already have thousands of articles about leaders and leadership, and countless thoughts on what leadership is and isn't--not to mention a constant stream of new articles, blogs and information.
With so much going on, it becomes more important than ever to stay focused on what's most important.
For me, that central message of leadership is this simple, clear thought: Within everyone there is a leader.
If you're helping to develop new leaders--whether they're rising executives, entry-level employees or 10-year-old students--you're doing leadership right..
If you're not sure, or if you want to be more effective at leadership development, here's a quick review of the basic steps for bringing out the leader in anyone:
1. Let them know they're a leader. The first step is to let them know that whatever their title or their position, their actions affect someone else and that puts them in a position to lead. Help them see what lies within them and understand that they can learn to unlock it and leverage it; establish the expectation and the belief that their influence makes them a leader. Show them that leadership begins within.
2. Treat them like a leader. Treat people in a way that reflects what you want them to become, and they will be much more likely to grow into their leadership. If you want to have a huge influence in their life, let them know you believe in them and treat them as you know they deserve to be treated. Be a people builder by looking for opportunities to encourage others and bring out the best in them.
3. Challenge them. Make it a point to assign people the kind of tasks and projects that will stretch them and challenge them, build their confidence, grow their strengths as a leader and shore up any areas where they need to improve. Work with them to help them understand the importance of each element of their leadership growth.
4. Make them responsible. Show that you believe in people and that you have confidence in their abilities by trusting them to get things done. At the foundation of great leadership is the idea of accountability for actions and responsibility for behavior, so make sure those elements are in place from the very beginning. Set a high standard and remain available as a resource, but give them room to make their own choices. Help them celebrate the victories and learn from the mistakes--and understand that both are important to their growth as a leader.
5. Help them communicate like a leader. Encourage people to communicate with candor and confidence, to speak in a way that helps the listener and to pay attention to their body language. Even more important, make sure you model these elements in your own communication.
6. Have them act like a leader. Bring everything full circle by connecting them with the central truths we started out with: that their leadership begins within, and that they are charged with finding and developing the leadership abilities in those around them. If you've done your part well, they will have seen a great example of your interest and care, your willingness to help them feel important and know that someone cares, your gratitude, and your lack of ego. You will have equipped them for their own leadership journey.
A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.