Business people in meeting

Companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on training their employees every year, and much of that is spent on building new leaders, strengthening existing leaders, and transforming good leaders into game-changing, high-level influencers. Pinpointing how to make those leaders most effective is extremely difficult though, as every company has a different set of characteristics and skills that leaders must develop. Each company has a culture that reinforces different traits of leadership or prioritizes various ways of looking at effective leadership.

However, in most companies, the leadership journey is still one that isn’t as planned as what it could be. Even with a wide variety of training and development for leadership and a huge focus on building the bench, in many cases the way people become leaders is not necessarily parallel to the skills they need to be great leaders.

Think about a typical leadership journey. John is a marketing project coordinator who starts with a large company and excels in his role. He takes initiative, brings new ideas, and is loved by his colleagues and clients. When a Sr. Director position comes up, John is a logical choice, having met and exceeded his objectives for three years running, having taken on greater responsibilities and having brought forward some innovative new ideas. John is a doer in the best sense of the word.

Now, John is responsible for a team of five coordinators, across digital marketing, product marketing, market research, and client management. He gets these roles, having actually experienced them. He knows what worked for him. So he tells his team how to best accomplish their objectives and work. He even goes in and helps them and takes things over.

But…something’s wrong. John’s team isn’t performing. They’re grumbling about his leadership approach and how he’s too hands-on and directive. They don’t feel engaged. Meanwhile, John is absolutely swamped, drained from a tremendous workload.

Sound familiar? A new leader stuck in the weeds and a team unclear on its direction. As leadership has come from personal achievement and excellence in execution, leaders take that approach and try to make it work.

But, that isn’t a sustainable course. As noted HR Thinker and Guru Meghan Biro states in Forbes, “Too many people think leadership is about control. (Want a different way to define it? Check out this blog).

In fact, great leaders inspire and then get out of the way. This is part of a first phase of self-awareness that is at times overlooked in the leadership journey, but one that can hold leaders back when they can’t do it well. And, knowing how to influence is an advanced skill that builds how others can best accomplish their own goals.

So how do you encourage leaders to gain self-awareness and get out of the way? What can you do to be a better leader? Well, it starts with empowerment of their team, because leaders who empower can inspire others and get out of the way of progress.

Here’s three ways leaders can empower the individuals on their teams to take on leadership qualities and do more.

  1. Be Open – Every team member respects a leader who is open and aware of his/her own strengths, challenges and approaches. Start with what you can most easily control – yourself! – and allow each team member to know how they can best interact with you.
  2. Be Clear on Expectations – If you want your team to do more, they need to know what you expect of them. This goes beyond just tasks and into performance, relationships and team dynamics. Setting a culture of accountability means you’ll be able to give up more control and get more done.
  3. Set a Tone of Collaboration – Collaboration means actively pursuing different approaches and utilizing the full spectrum of people and resources at your disposal. By demonstrating increased trust and extending responsibility, as a leader you can engender that same kind of collaboration within your team members.

Leadership is not a one-and-done activity. It’s a process and a growth continuum. But, the more you can empower those around you, the more effective you will be as a leader.

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