Keys To Developing The Next Generation Of Leaders

There is more to planning the succession of a business than just crunching numbers. As successful business leaders know, it’s the people who make a company work. Does your company know who will be leading your business after the current leadership is gone? Are you sure your next generation of leaders is up to the task?

 

Businesses are always on the lookout for their next leaders: The future generation who will keep the company financially strong and focused even after the current leadership is gone. Many of today’s business leaders have put their hearts and souls into their companies, so it would only make sense to think about the coming years, and to whom they will be entrusting the future of their businesses.

There is more to planning the succession of a business than just crunching numbers. As successful business leaders know, it’s the people who make a company work. Does your company know who will be leading your business after the current leadership is gone? Are you sure your next generation of leaders is up to the task?

The book “First Among Equals” by Patrick McKenna and David Maister, suggests that, “A leader has fundamentally got to be somebody who is effective at making things happen for other people.” This certainly suggests that leadership development is about developing people who will be effective at making things happen for other people. This quality is quite different from the qualities many successful businesspeople possess. They may sometimes push themselves to success at the expense of other people. To be effective, a leader must show that he or she truly cares about others. This means fulfilling your team members’ potential by influencing their feelings, attitudes and emotions.

Even people with natural leadership skills will likely need guidance when it comes to the challenges involved in working with a diverse group of team members. The development of future leaders requires the identification of personnel who have emotional intelligence, empathy and integrity. Once identified, companies will want to develop these traits to allow these individuals to be effective at making things happen for other people.

Too many entities attempt to provide leadership development to all personnel who have achieved a certain level of success in their organization. It’s easy to assume that if an individual has achieved personal success, they can be developed into leaders for the organization. However, reality suggests otherwise. Look at the number of individuals in your own
organization who are very successful at managing their own careers, but lack the traits needed to focus on the needs of other people.

This can be particularly obvious in a family-owned business. For example, in many family-owned businesses the founder introduces his or her son or daughter to all key relationship accounts of the business. The son or daughter continues to grow that “book of business” and becomes a highly successful salesperson. However, the initial relationships had been developed by the founder of the business, rather than by the son or daughter. The son or daughter, having become a highly successful salesperson, is then promoted to sales manager, and now has the added responsibility of leading others. However, he or she does not possess, or at least has not developed, the traits necessary to lead other people. As such, the focus of the son or daughter continues to be growing and servicing his or her own “book of business.” Because of this lack of leadership development, the growth of the business does not achieve the level of success that it could, had the son or daughter focused on others versus themselves.

Let’s explore the three traits noted earlier as being basic to identifying someone worthy of leadership development in a family business—emotional intelligence, empathy and integrity.

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to recognize our own feelings, and those of others, for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships. Daniel Goleman, in the book “Emotional Intelligence,” notes four core emotional intelligence skills:

  1. Self-awareness: Can I accurately identify my own emotions and tendencies as they happen?
  2. Self-management: Can I manage my emotions and behavior to a positive outcome?
  3. Social awareness: Can I identify our emotions and tendencies as I interact with you or a group?
  4. Relationship management: Can I manage the interaction I have with others constructively, resulting in a positive outcome?

It has been suggested that emotional intelligence is much more powerful than IQ in determining leadership ability. IQ becomes a threshold competence—you need it, but it does not make you a leader. Emotional Intelligence, along with threshold competencies, is a much better measurement of leadership potential.

Empathy is closely aligned with emotional intelligence. It is defined as “the capacity for participation in another’s feelings or ideas.” Obviously, if we are trying to identify a person to develop as a leader, and if we believe that leaders make things happen for other people, then leaders must have the capacity to participate in the feelings of others—empathy.

Integrity has been listed in almost every small business list of core values. For anyone to develop into a leader, he or she must understand that integrity is more than a core value: it is a rule that must never be broken. Leadership is about building trust. To lead means that someone must be following, and few will follow a leader that lacks integrity. As you focus on the development of leadership in your own family business, you are encouraged to first identify those in your organization who possess the traits of emotional intelligence, empathy and integrity. The requirements of these three traits will help you determine with whom you can trust the future of your business.

This article is reprinted with permission from The Family Business Report sponsored by the Goering Center at the University of Cincinnati College of Business Administration.