How To Develop Leaders – Add Value

Last month I focused on Leadership from the perspective of leading others with a series called “How to Become a Person of Influence.” This month the focus is still Leadership but from the perspective of developing leaders around you. John Maxwell has said, “If its lonely at the top, you’re not doing something right.” One of the important jobs of a leader is to work themselves out of a job by developing people around them to take over or to lead somewhere else.

I recently participated on the interview panel for a director level position in a healthcare environment. We interviewed several highly qualified candidates. The one who got the job was the one who had a demonstrated track record of developing leaders. Her previous employer had sent several high potential people to her for the purpose of being mentored by her. She said, “When they moved up and on, it was hard to see them leave, but it was gratifying to see them lead.”

Mind Shift

Many people have heard the leadership definition that says, “Leadership is getting things done through people.” Unfortunately, too many have interpreted that to mean “I get everything I can out of my people.” It sounds like “Value Extraction.” We define value extraction as the capturing of value from other stakeholders, either outside or inside the corporation, by manipulating … the competitive market or people for the company’s benefit.

Here’s another definition that sounds eerily similar – “an organism that lives in or on an organism of another species (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other’s expense.” That’s the definition of a parasite! Do you know any parasite leaders?

Genuine, effective, transformational leadership is the opposite of that. The best leaders focus on adding value to people, not trying to extract value from them. Earlier I mentioned developing leaders. I love how the definition of “Develop” fits the leadership model so well. “Develop” – to grow or cause to grow and become more mature, advanced, or elaborate. From Latin dis – un, and envelop – to wrap, so to unfurl or unfold. I see a bud unfurling when the flower blossoms as a great analogy to the growth and development of people.

With a plant you cultivate the soil and add water and sunshine to promote growth and development. It’s the same with people. To promote growth and development you cultivate a growth climate and add value. Value is a measure of something’s worth or usefulness. When you add value to someone, you increase their worth and usefulness to the organization. What better way to get things done than to increase the worth and usefulness of your people? When you add value, you multiply your influence and create a legacy.

How Do You Do That?

How do you add value to another person? Here are three suggestions.

  1. Make yourself more valuable – During a pre-flight safety demonstration, the flight attendant will say, “In the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure … put on your oxygen mask first, before helping the person next to you,” The principle is similar. You have to have value to add value. Do you have a personal development plan? Have you intentionally built into your schedule regular opportunities to learn and grow? Doing that will ensure you always have value to add and it will set an example for your people to follow.
  2. Find out what your people value – whenever I start working with a new group, I try to have a one-on-one meeting with every member of the team. I ask several questions. Some are designed to ascertain how things are going but I also ask questions to find out what the people care about and how they want to grow. This requires that you listen well (check out my “super-power listening” series). That information will help you develop a growth plan for them.
  3. Connect the dots – What knowledge or skills do you have or have access to that they value and need? Share. Some people think it makes them powerful to have knowledge or skills that others don’t have. I promise you, sharing your knowledge and skills with your people will make you more powerful because it will multiply your influence. If you don’t have the particular knowledge or skills your people need, make it available to them through educational opportunities, resources, and experiences.

I had the privilege of working with a large hospital system for over a year on their training program for front line supervisors in the Environmental Services (Hospital Housekeeping) Department. We broke the learning into three categories of acquisition: Education (classroom or online learning opportunities), Exposure (giving developing leaders the opportunity to experience something for the first time, maybe attend a higher level meeting, for example), and Experience (providing the chance to try something new, like lead a morning huddle or a process improvement team).

You may or may not be the source of your people’s “Education” piece. But, you certainly can give them “Exposure” and “Experience.” And those are the most powerful ways to learn.

What are three things you could do today to add value to someone?

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