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  • Writer's pictureDr. Pamela Davis

Developing Leaders

I've been there - eagerly and anxiously awaiting the opportunity for someone to give me a chance to lead. Back then, I was clueless about leadership. I really wanted someone to just take me under their wing and show me the ropes. The reality is, people are busy and while on the job training is a term, the translation of that is really "trial by fire." All of my leadership roles have been just that! They did not come with a manual or someone who guided me through a two-week training prior to my first day on the job. After that initial phone call with a brief summary of expectations, the next words I heard were: "Any questions?".

So what are some ways to develop leaders - on the job? Whether you're a leader that is interested in developing your team members or you're an aspiring leader, seeking leadership opportunities, here's what I have to offer:


Leaders - as much as we'd like to, we cannot be everywhere at the same time. And while no on does it quite like we do it, there really are other ways of doing it that are just as effective. What are some tasks that you can delegate? Which team member has the skill set to deliver? Not necessarily like you, but could still hit the mark.

Aspiring Leader - for you, it is crucial to not mess up the opportunity that you've been granted. The one time you're allowed in the game does not need to be forfeited by you taking an unnecessary shot to showcase the moves you've been practicing. Especially if there's any chance you will miss.


Leaders - Within your organization, you've probably already identified lead team members. Their levels of leadership perhaps vary - it is important to have an accurate assessment of their strengths/weaknesses and they need to know where you stand on this as well. For example, you have a team member that is great with tasks, spreadsheets, and such but their people skills need work. This candidness gives way for you to point teachable moments; you can use role play during your team meetings or debrief in response to real scenarios whether the outcome was positive or didn't quite go the way you wanted. Leaders should also take advantage of professional development opportunities outside of the organization. Each industry has it own set of highly recognized experts. When developing your team, seek out best practices from scholarly sources and conferences.

Aspiring leaders - embrace your weaknesses. We cannot all be great at everything, but we can approach our weakness in a way that does not wipe us off our feet every time. Development opportunities are all around you. Pay attention to the people who are doing well in the areas that you are weak in. What are some take-aways from how they are successfully operating in that area? There are tons of content developers pushing out curriculum and training services daily. This is a great way for you to tap into online resources to further develop yourself.


Leaders - another way for you to develop your team members is by providing direction/feedback. Often feedback is reserved for evaluation and performance conversations. Creating a culture where feedback is given generously and frequently removes the gray area. Inevitably, things will go wrong. Some of the best lessons are taught through bad decisions. When we as leaders share feedback with our team members it generates an open highway whereby team members can operate freely within the bounds of the leader's expectations.

Aspiring leaders - receiving direction from your supervisor is a non-negotiable. You may not always agree with it, but here's what I know: If you are fortunate to have a leader that freely gives feedback, take it in and apply as needed. If your leader does not openly share feedback with you, pay attention to other signs. Well-rounded leaders know the value of feedback and will share. If you are not getting it as often as you need it, well-rounded leaders can appreciate you asking for feedback. For leaders who are inexperienced or insecure, they will withhold feedback to avoid helping you improve.

Developing leaders requires action on both the leader and the aspiring leader's part. Make time for it. The organization will benefit or suffer in the long-run.

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