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Nurturing Leadership Qualities

09 May 2016
When you’re looking to grow your business and enable it to achieve its potential, it’s vital that you have a strong leadership team.

Promoting from within can foster a meritocratic culture where employees understand that with the right qualities and behaviours they can rise up the ladder within your company. It can be more beneficial to recruit internally rather than externally because of the smooth transition between roles and increased employee engagement and retention.

A great leader can engage your staff and encourage increased productivity. Spotting employees with leadership potential and helping them to develop their skills and behaviours will reap big rewards for both the individual and your organisation.

There is an argument that great leaders are born rather than taught, however many people do recognise that leadership is indeed a skill you can learn. Leicester City Manager Claudio Ranieri is a prime example of how leadership skills can be developed and perfected over time, with the help of personal knowledge and experience.

Writing in an article in The Psychologist, with Professor Alex Haslam of the University of Queensland, the psychologists explained: “Ultimately, Claudio Ranieri’s redemption follows a trajectory from ‘I’ to ‘we’. From his first day as Leicester manager he was keen to make it clear that it was not he who was special, but the team and league that he had come to serve.” Professor Haslam added: ‘Ranieri’s failures and successes teach us critical lessons about how to be a good leader – and also how to be a bad leader. Indeed, there is a long history of leaders in sport – but also in politics and business, moving in precisely the opposite direction to Ranieri.

Leadership may be a skill, but it is understood that many leaders share similar traits, and it’s these traits that you can identify in your employees. In an article for the Guardian, Senior management coach, Steve Nicholls, was quoted as saying: “There is something built into leaders about the kind of personality traits which enable them to be effective. A strong self belief is very important. Natural qualities are fundamental to leadership. You can learn the techniques of leadership, but in terms of personality I don’t think you can.”

Once you’ve identified leadership qualities in individuals it’s your job as an employer to encourage and assist them to reach their full potential.

How to nurture?

The first step is to talk to the person, let them know how well they’re doing and find out if they’re interesting in stepping up into a leadership role within the company. This is your opportunity to discuss development areas and see which path the individual would like their career to take. Once you know that the potential leader wants to progress, you can help them to reach the required level to step into the role when a vacancy appears.

Give increased responsibility

Providing opportunities to take on additional responsibility will show your employee how much you trust them. How you do this depends on the person’s role and your organisation but there are usually ways to offer small leadership roles, such as a place on a committee or chairing a team meeting.

Other ways to increase an individual’s responsibility include delegating challenging assignments and tasking them with special projects. Give those you’re nurturing the autonomy and freedom to solve problems for your organisation. Managing director of INSPIRING John Telfer says that it’s important to make sure that managers aren’t using all of their time on reporting and line management duties however. “This can hinder their own progress by making them focus on what has been, instead of what could be achieved if they are allowed to develop their own inspiring leadership skills,” he explains.

Mentoring programme

Offering a mentor programme can help to support those in whom you spot potential. Pairing them with a senior leader will give your junior staff the opportunity to benefit from the senior member’s experience and they can be inspired to push forward and achieve their goals. Providing mentors can also assist your future leaders in growing their leadership skills. The mentors could suggest books to read, TED talks to watch, and so on.

Provide training in areas of development

In their current role it might not be possible for your future leaders to be exposed to areas that they need to develop, for example commercial knowledge. Offering training that fills these knowledge gaps is a good way to help your staff develop. This could be done formally through an external training provider or informally through work-shadowing or internal coaching on specific skills and leadership competencies.

Recognise achievements and show your appreciation

One of the traits of a good leader is commitment and dedication to the organisation. Your leadership team needs to be fully invested in your company, aiming to be able to encourage and engage junior employees. Thanking your staff and giving honest recognition for their work achievements can help them to feel appreciated and enhance their job satisfaction. As Bart Cleveland wrote for Ad Age, “Sure, it is an employee’s job to do their best. But ask yourself, would you give even more if you knew you were appreciated?”


If you’re looking for a formal way to identify development areas and provide leadership qualifications for your future leaders, our INSPIRING Leadership programme could be ideal for your organisation. This three-phase approach gives your employees a personalised development programme, helps you to retain talent and aligns with your business needs, directly benefiting your bottom line. Find out more about INSPIRING Leadership here.