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Leadership Development Blog

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How To Empower Future Leaders Today

Posted by Paul O'Keefe on Apr 15, 2016 7:46:00 PM

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“Leaders will be those who empower others.” Bill Gates

What Bill Gates is suggesting isn’t a novel idea. Effective leaders have always empowered their employees. It’s an absolute necessity in order to ensure a company’s future success. It’s even more necessary as increasing numbers of millennials enter the workforce. Millennials appreciate being developed as leaders and feeling empowered. Such employees are more likely to be engaged, productive and beneficial to the organization’s well-being.

How should management go about empowering young leaders? Following are short- and long-term strategies that are sure to create a cadre of empowered future leaders.

Empower Future Leaders With A Compelling Vision

Millennials value companies that espouse visions fostering the social good. Almost 70% of millennials hold “giving back and being civically engaged” of utmost importance. An even greater number, 87% believe an organization’s success should encompass more than just its financial performance. These employees seek organizations that uphold moral and ethical positions and take stands on socioeconomic issues. Organizations need a worthwhile vision in order to empower young leaders.

One such company is Gap Inc., which states “that work is more than a paycheck.” Gap believes that companies need to meet their employees’ physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. Having a vision that is grounded in ideals greater than company success and market share is highly compelling and sure to empower young leaders.

Share Your Vision With Your Future Leaders

Once you have a compelling vision, share it in a simple and straightforward message. If it’s some vast, amorphous concept or full of confusing “industry-lingo,” your employees won’t relate.

Here are some questions to ask to ensure your vision appeals to your young workers: Is it something they're passionate about? Does it offer immediate, tangible results? If these questions can be answered in the affirmative, you’re on the way to having a vision that empowers future leaders.

RELATED: Retaining Millennial Employees Through Leadership Development

 

Provide Ways to Contribute to the Vision

Offer ways for your future leaders to pour into the vision. Better yet, offer incentives for them to come up with their own ways for contributing. Encourage your future leaders to participate in ways that produce measurable, tangible results. It’s empowering to have a role in a vision and see it come to pass.

Respect Your Employees, Their Opinions and Their Input

Nothing can disempower workers faster than feeling like their supervisor doesn’t respect them personally or professionally. Second to that is when employees feel that a supervisor doesn’t respect an idea or suggestion they’ve put forward. Whether you agree or disagree, acknowledge their input in a positive manner.

Communicate Well and Often

In order to empower future leaders, you must cultivate an environment that encourages open, creative dialogue that is rich in ideas and constructive feedback. Communication should flow freely from the top down, bottom up and side to side. Supervisors, long-time employees, as well as entry-level workers should feel free to discuss their ideas. This is one of the ways innovation works and who knows where the next stellar leader is presently positioned in the organization. Create opportunities for that leader to rise to the top.

Personal communication is also key. Families matter to your employees; their “outside-the-workplace” lives matter. It is empowering for employees to know a supervisor cares and has a genuine interest in their professional and personal lives.

Reward Effort and Success

Genuine effort and success should never go unnoticed. An empowering leader recognizes and rewards effort and success. This is a twofold process:

  1. Encourage your employees to take risks and try new things. In order for any organization to stay on the cutting edge, it has to be powered by forward-thinking innovators. When employees make an effort and take risks, they should be recognized for it, which encourages others to do the same.
  2. In order to empower your future leaders, they have to see and experience for themselves that effort and success are rewarded.

Success breeds success. Nothing helps people to press into more success but the taste of success.

Use Failures and Mistakes as Learning Opportunities

One strategy for empowering leaders is to consistently build them up, not tear them down. This sounds easy enough, but the implementation can be challenging and requires honest, objective analysis: Do workers approach you with new ideas, or do they tiptoe around you? Are they fearless in innovation, or is no one generating new ideas? Your answers to these questions indicate the type of environment you've created.

Additionally, let your employees to take risks and give them space to carry out their ideas. If you constantly monitor and correct them, you’re teaching them not to trust themselves and you're limiting the development of their decision-making skills. Allow them the process - from conception to outcome.

Offer mentoring and advice only as support. If they succeed, wonderful! Make sure to reward them. If they fail, again, wonderful! Correct them respectfully and coach them on turning the failure into a success.

Reward in Public; Correct in Private

Strive to reward your employees in public and not correct them in front of others. Nothing can disempower a worker faster than public correction, which is humiliating and makes an adult feel like a child. Such correction is likely to create disempowered, disengaged employees.

Don’t be a "Helicopter-Supervisor"

The “helicopter-supervisor,” like the helicopter-parent, hovers, corrects, and squelches independence and creativity. Such helicoptering breeds resentment because no one likes being monitored and evaluated constantly. Another word for this is micromanager. Make sure you’re not one.

These short-terms strategies can be implemented immediately, yet bear long-term results. The following long-term solutions take more time and may require coordination with different departments, such as finance or professional development.

Empower Leaders With Opportunities for Growth

One means of empowering young leaders is to place them in positions of opportunity and leadership. Here are some ideas:

  • Permit your workers to explore new ways of doing old things
  • Arrange for junior employees to attend higher-level meetings with the expectation that they'll contribute and that their contributions will be considered
  • Provide opportunities for employees to tackle challenges that demand innovative solutions and give them the freedom to implement these solutions

Invest in Their Education

Do your employees want to go back to school? Could they benefit from taking industry-specific courses? One of the best ways to empower future leaders is to invest in their education. Encouraging them in their back-to-school endeavors is always helpful. Allowing them the opportunity to create a flexible work schedule in order to attend is empowering. Another idea is for your organization to create a reimbursement program or pay tuition in exchange for years of service. Any of these are a means of empowering young leaders.

Offer Convenient, Flexible Training Opportunities

One step in empowering leaders is to offer convenient, flexible training via online leadership development courses, in-house workshops and trade conferences. Millennials desire growth opportunities and appreciate being able to craft their own course.

Empowering young leaders is a necessary part of any organization’s strategic plan. Steps can be taken in the short-term and long-term that directly impact their sense of empowerment. Implementing these strategies is sure to bear fruit, not just in empowering future leaders, but also in employee productivity and the overall well-being of your company.

You may also be interested in these employee development posts:

To learn more about the benefits of employee development, contact Edge Training at 800-305-2025.

Topics: Employee Development, leadership development, Millennial Development

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