Experiences are the best teacher for leadership development. Your job is to provide the experiences that will develop your employees’ leadership skills. Here are some specific types of learning situations to challenge them with:
- Differing opinions. Put the employee in charge of a work group whose members have strong, widely ranging opinions about how to handle a workplace issue. Tell your employee not to pick a “correct” course of action when opinions conflict, but to lead the group to a consensus that everyone can support.
- Difficult workers. Every organization has a few people who do good work but don’t interact well with the rest of the workforce. These workers may be shy, or immature, or they may harbor some unknown problem. The assignment: Discover what motivates these employees, and whether your potential leader can help them channel their talents and energy into better relationships with their co-workers.
- External partners. Leaders can’t afford to focus exclusively on what’s happening inside the organization. Give an employee the opportunity to build relationships with customers, vendors, community groups, and other external stakeholders. Pay attention to how the person handles tense situations and how he or she encourages cooperation toward mutual goals.
- Strategic decisions. Assign the employee to research a business situation and develop suggestions for your organization’s response. Encourage the person to think in broad, transformational terms. You’ll get a good idea of the employee’s grasp of your position in the marketplace.