Last month, as part of Exec-Comm’s Learning Exchange series, I led a seminar with talent management and business leaders from top Silicon Valley companies to discuss developing leaders at their companies. We addressed how certain supervisors are able to command respect from their employees while others struggle to do so. One of the greatest challenges Learning & Development managers face is building a reliable leadership pipeline in their team. The group spoke about how company leaders can help develop the next group of rising top-performers.
Why do we trust and respect certain leaders, and not others?
Confidence and credibility are the two most important traits for a leader to possess in order to command respect. Without the confidence to speak his or her mind and show vulnerability, leaders struggle to cultivate a following. Additionally, a leader needs to be able to support his or her decisions with research, knowledge, and experience.
After speaking about what makes a great leader, we delved into how to communicate confidence and credibility.
What helps a leader project confidence and credibility?
Many leaders have the confidence and credibility that they need, but struggle to portray that to their colleagues and teams. The most important traits we identified were.
- Strong communication skills.
- Being an expert in their field.
- Building trust with colleagues and clients.
- Self-awareness – being open to receiving feedback and continuing to improve.
Leaders that understand how important relationships are stand out to their colleagues because each member of their team feels valued. One participant spoke directly about the new CEO at his company and why he already had so much respect for him. “He talked with us, not at us.”
And what detracts from a leader’s presence?
Once we were able to identify key positive leadership traits, we explored what can detract from a leader’s presence.
- Poor listening skills.
- Indirect or transparent.
- Not relatable.
- Unable to communicate the big picture.
- Not good at coaching or developing people.
The inability to connect with colleagues stood out as a big obstacle for managers. Whether a leader Talent managers cited these as barriers that hold leaders back from bigger, broader responsibilities.
What can you do to help develop your leaders?
As a senior business executive who is responsible for developing others, or as a talent management leader, what can you do to help your leaders get ready for the next level?
We talked about the importance of training during two key inflection points in a leader’s career:
- When an individual contributor gets promoted to their first management position
- When a first-line or mid-level manager gets promoted into a senior leadership role, and now has influence over a larger organization.
Each of these new roles requires new skills, and a shift in mindset. As renowned leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith says in his book, “What Gets You Here, Won’t Get You There.”
New managers benefit immensely from structured training on coaching, how to give and receive effective feedback, and how to motivate and mentor their teams.
Senior executives, on the other hand, sometimes need coaching to hone their executive presence: staying grounded during a crisis, refining their physical presence and communication skills, and using stories to inspire and motivate.
What else are you doing to develop confident, credible leaders in your organization?