“The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words. When his task is accomplished and things have been completed, All the people say, ‘We ourselves have achieved it! – Lao Tsu(Ancient Chinese Philosopher)
There are vast differences in the way human beings live compared to their ancestors hundreds of years ago. However, basic human motivations and needs have not changed. Hence, ancient philosophical texts like the Upanishads, Tao TeChing, Kabbalah & others have insights that have been used by great leaders thorough the centuries and have relevance even today. One of the key ideas you can derive from these books is the concept of Servant Leadership.
A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While a traditional leader looks to accumulate and exercise of power,the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop into leaders themselves.
Once you have developed this mindset, here are some specific ways you can develop a team of leaders around you:
1) Engage your team with your vision –
Many of your subordinates may be working primarily for their salaries, but the potential leaders among them would want a greater sense of ‘meaning’ in their work. Make sure you constantly share your long-term vision about what you feel your organization can achieve for its team and for the world at large. Make them feel that this is not just your vision, but something that they all share by appealing to their hearts & minds. They will take full ownership on themselves to help to achieve that vision alongside you.
2) Recognize potential in your team –
Once you’ve engaged the team with your vision, involve them in difficult or unusual situations that push them out of their comfort zone. This is a great way to test which members have the potential to become leaders themselves. Get to know these potential leaders better by learning about their interests and personal goals. Leaders exist in all levels of your organization, so make efforts to interact with all of them.
3) Give opportunities for leadership development –
Once you’ve identified the potential leaders, give them a chance to develop further by involving them in longer term challenging assignments or rotating their jobs temporarily into other departments. This gives them a chance to develop new abilities and deepen their understanding of the organization. Supplement this with formal training via internal workshops, online learning and sponsored courses in educational institutions.
4) Monitor and reward –
Along with receiving your support, these potential leaders also need to be accountable for their performance and show improvement in their capabilities over time. Setup systems that evaluate performance and reward excellence. A key aspect is that you should be willing to accept mistakes as team members try to implement new ideas. They can only develop if they do not have a sense of fear that they will be punished for honest errors. Additionally, do not give up on people too easily. There could be diamonds in the rough that need further polishing.
5) Be a Coach rather than a Boss –
Potential leaders should feel free to share their deepest concerns and challenges with you via one-on-one discussions and receive support and advice on how to deal with them. This should be an ongoing process that would facilitate learning for both your team members and you as the organization grows.
Incorporating the above ideas, keeping your ego in check and realizing that what is good for the team is ultimately good for the organization, is one of the surest ways of building a loyal and supportive team of leaders.
By AkhilShahani, Managing Director, TheShahani Group