Forget About Training Leaders. You Need Managers

We've all known someone we consider to be a born leader. But can leaders be made as well as born?

Maybe yes, maybe no... but definitely not within a time frame you can afford.

If you own a small business, don't waste time and money trying to develop leaders within your staff. Since the average person is likely to have 11 different jobs by the time they are 44 years old, any skills an employee gains from money you spent on leadership training is almost guaranteed to benefit some other company, not yours.

And there's another reason to stop trying to teach your employees to be better leaders. Leadership "skills" are traits that are difficult to develop. The ability to stay cool under fire and make smart decisions is hard to teach. The ability to motivate and inspire employees is very hard to teach. Charisma is impossible to teach.

Leadership skills are also extremely difficult to measure. "What" is easy to measure; "how" is another proposition entirely since soft skills are involved. Compared to leadership skills, management skills are more easily measured because they produce measurable outcomes. The act of managing a process might be difficult, but measuring the results of that process should be straightforward.

So as a small business owner, what should you teach your staff?

Teach management, not leadership. Teach employees, whether in "leadership" positions or not, to follow processes and guidelines: Processes and guidelines you establish and maintain. Teach skills like decision-making (within parameters you establish) and attention to detail (based on metrics you develop) and follow-up and feedback (based on goals and targets you set).

That doesn't mean managers or supervisors must be automatons that rigidly follow checklists. Regardless of position, every employee can make judgment calls as long as their decisions fall within established parameters. The farther up the food chain, the broader the parameters and the greater the latitude. Then every employee, but especially managers who should be allowed to operate with broad authority, can be creative within boundaries you establish.

For example, every manager can be cool under fire if taught to prioritize effectively and make smart decisions. What is a smart decision? The decision you want your employees to make.

So quit trying to create leaders. Pass on ropes courses and experiential training and transformational leadership retreats. You don't need more leaders. You are the Steve Jobs of your company. Teach employees in positions of authority to extend your ideas, your approach, your goals, and your vision to the rest of your team.

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