"Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better." — Bill Bradley
Successful leaders understand the difference between things and people in an organization. They know that it’s important to manage things, but that it’s even more important to lead people. Leaders don’t just mouth empty phrases like “people are our greatest resource;” they demonstrate by their actions that people – not strategy, products, plans, processes, or systems – are the most critical factor in an organization’s performance. That’s why leaders invest heavily in growing and developing people, while managers see people as objects to be commanded and controlled.
Developing people means challenging people. But just issuing challenges isn’t enough. It would be disrespectful to not also teach a systematic, common means of developing solutions and meeting those challenges. Leaders facilitate the solution of problems by pinpointing responsibility and developing employees. Leaders do not solve other people’s problems.
Your role as a leader is to develop talent to the highest levels of independent and autonomous thinking and execution. Great leaders don’t subscribe to a “Do-It-For-You” methodology of talent management, rather they lead, mentor, coach and develop team members by getting them to buy-into a “Do-It-Yourself” work ethic. Great leaders view each interaction, question or even conflict as a coaching opportunity. Don’t answer questions or solve problems just because you can, rather teach your employees how to do it for themselves. If you make it a habit of solving problems for people, you simply teach them to come to you for solutions at the first sign of a challenge.
The best way to develop employees is not to manage them. You need to coach them to success. This is a process of developing their skills and providing them specific feedback to meet high standards. Employees want to be on the same team with their bosses.
To get people across an organization to systematically work on improvement every day requires teaching the skills behind the solution. And for that to happen, their leaders and mangers also need to practice and learn those skills. Be their coach and lead the team to success!
In order to fully realize potential, you’ll have to add knowledge, skills, and experience. Don’t expect your people to do their best if you don’t equip them with the training they need to perform. And don’t expect your potential to spring forth in a final draft; it takes time to hone your skills and build your confidence. This could come from formal schooling, from the school of hard knocks, or from both. Either way, your education is the house your realized potential will live in.