All too often, organizations find themselves behind the eight ball when it comes to replacing leadership positions.  Whether they thought that nobody would ever think to leave their organization or retire or even, God forbid, die they find themselves in a position of reactive behavior rather than proactive behavior.  The result is usually that the person who is the best at running their particular machine, or the best nurse or the best numbers cruncher, etc are chosen as the successor and the resulting disaster unfolds because not only did you lose your best operator, nurse or cruncher, but now you have a unit or even a whole department in an uproar because the new leader has no idea how to fulfill his or her role.

LEADERSHIP IS ITS OWN ENTITY

It has its own set of skills that require explanation and practice.  You have to learn to balance accountability with compassion, you have to know how to use action plans to help your people grow, you even have to learn how to integrate your three brains into one problem solving, 007 cool  under fire machine.  If you’re going to get this right, there are three steps that you have to take in order to ensure that the organization can handle future adversity or hopefully, growth!

IDENTIFY your future leaders…

Start today and make it a priority.  One of the responsibilities of every leader is to find and train your replacement.  Any organization that waits until the need arises is once again exhibiting reactive behavior rather than proactive behavior and there is going to be a steep learning curve for departments, teams and outcomes while the training that is desperately needed for a new leader is slowly implemented.  So what are we looking for?  At it’s heart, leadership is about relationships and the ability to grow people.  Look for those people that others seem to gravitate to, the ones that assignments are given to because it’s known that they are a finisher.  Observe your personnel and watch for the ones who do not get too emotional about the change that is inevitable in every organization, the ones who are always looking for the good in people and in decisions.  It is difficult to train in attitude so look for ones who seem to naturally have a good attitude about life in general.

EDUCATE your leaders….

Now that you have identified your future potentials, you must teach them about what is expected from leadership at all levels in your organization.  There are many skills associated with the ability to be a top flight leader and the sooner they understand those skills and why they are so important, the better.  Things like critical thinking, problem solving, how to identify strengths and weaknesses are all skills that must be acquired and grown but also the ability to hold a proper one on one meeting, to write an action plan and implement it, to build and grow a team are just as essential.  It takes a long time to build a proper leader and education is always the first step, so don’t wait, get to educating.

TRAIN your future leaders…

For those that think that education and training are the same thing, think of it this way.  College graduates are educated but they are not trained.  They have little to no experience to back up how smart they sound, so until you train them, you still have little idea of what you really have.  The training I’m talking about is taking those skills that you have been educating them on and giving them some training on how those skills translate to the real world.  Training like actually doing one on one meetings to identify strengths and weaknesses,  writing an action plan for not just an individual but also a team, building a small team to complete a project.  All things that will stretch and grow an individual.  You see these skills are not easily learned and mistakes will be made as learning takes place.  The question is do you want the mistakes to be made when it is training that is taking place and the mistakes are minimized, or do you want the mistakes to be made when your new leader is “live”and the stakes are high?

IDENTIFY, EDUCATE, TRAIN

That’s it.  Three things that any organization can do to make sure that success is built and sustained over the long haul.  Many companies have made a charge up the leader board and gotten themselves into the top tier of whatever genre it is that they are a part of, but the real winners are the organizations that understand that leadership is a proactive process and must be cultivated way before it is needed.  So remember:  IDENTIFY, EDUCATE, TRAIN.  The drive to the top should not end at the top, it should just be the beginning of a long, long run AT the top!

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