Monday, July 24, 2017

Are You Preparing Your Leadership Successor?

I think that the height of Leadership confidence comes when you decide that you can help your people take your place or even go beyond what you have achieved. I also learned that the more you develop people and share leadership with them, the more powerful you get and the more easy your job of leading gets as well.

When I attended a Basic Supervisory Course some sixteen years ago, one lesson stuck with me more than others and that is "it is the supervisor's responsibility to train the ones who will take his place". I was an acting supervisor then in a 7-Eleven store in EDSA corner Boni avenue. I was young, still a bit naive and insecure and the idea of giving someone a chance to take my place was unthinkable. To a certain extent I was protective of what I know. I was assigned to an acting leadership role shortly after I was regularized. I thought that I ascended unusually fast and to have someone outpace my rise to leadership was unsettling. So in my mind I was saying "No way!"

Leo Ortiz who conducted that training also said that if your subordinates happen to be better leaders than you and move past you, you should be happy with the fact that you paved the way for a great leader to arise. You can just imagine me kicking and screaming my way to accepting that lesson. It was against my "I'll race you to the top" concept of achieving professional success. But Ortiz said that if we train our employees to become leaders, they will push us up and that if we don't, they will weigh us down. I learned from that seminar that one of the true measures of leadership success is developing other leaders. It made so much sense to me that it has become my passion, no, obsession to equip my employees to actually take my place or overtake if they can. I'm proud to report that a number of my previous staff have moved up to become successful Managers themselves. 

So, how does one leader prepare others to take her place? I'd say that work starts right at hiring them. If you consider yourself a good leader and believe that your work requires a fair deal of leadership skills, you can't train replacements if you keep hiring people with absolutely no leadership potentials. I am, for example, more inclined to hire people who are clear about their ambitions, have initiatives, who are creative and resourceful, capable of expressing themselves and good-natured. That's because I believe those are good leadership ingredients. I'm sure you have your own recipe for leadership. What's important is you know your ingredients when you see them. Look for them when you screen candidates.

I can't remember his name anymore but I was talking to a consultant from the Asian Institute of Management about empowerment when I was Head of Training at SPI Technologies. He gave me a rather philosophical and rhetorical question as an answer. He asked, how do you make pots? Only a miracle of nature can make them look like pots without the potter's intervention. The potter has to shape them put them through several processes and test before he lets go... and then he lets go. Like Yoda, he leaned back to allow me to absorb the wisdom of his words. After a while I responded, to empower without shaping is to risk empowering incompetence. He knew I learned my lesson. The idea stuck with me until a few days later I decided to have my own leadership development program in my own team. I came up with guidelines and let my staff take turns in taking on leadership roles. I served as their coach until finally, they can do the job of leading and that's when I knew my job was done and that I can move on to greater responsibilities. I became an HR Manager for PET Plan's subsidiary companies. When I was HR Director of Athena E-Services my team can pretty much run the show even in my absence. Here where I am now at ExeQserve, the same is true. I'm developing pretty awesome leaders and future training consultants here and I'm excited about the prospects of those next in line.

When you train future leaders, you must recognize the need to do the heavy lifting at first, the shaping to make sure that they are properly honed and molded. It reminds me that a good pot is a product of a skilled potter. You can't give what you don't have so, it's important for a leader to also take lessons from other leaders.

Lastly, I'd say that not all shaping turns out to be a success. A leader should not beat himself up for people who don't respond well to the training. They have their own place in the sun. Remember, not everybody needs to be a leader. Work with those who have what it takes and want to do what it takes to be a leader..