Unlocking Growth Potential: Why Developing Leadership Skills is Essential for Entrepreneurs of Growing Businesses

Promoting an employee just because they’re good at their current job is a common practice in many companies. However, this approach can have negative consequences for the business, especially when it comes to managing others and leading teams. CEOs and entrepreneurs need to understand that being a good manager or leader requires a unique set of skills that not everyone possesses. Just because someone performs tasks well, does not mean they also always have leadership abilities. 

There are also entrepreneurs who are so focused on the day-to-day grind in their business that they can’t see the leadership potential of someone sitting right on their team, and will instead hire someone from outside the organization for a leadership role, passing over an excellent prospect in the process. 

In this article, we’ll discuss how you can avoid this common mistake by focusing on developing the leadership skills of your team and provide tips on how to ensure that the person you want to promote is not just good at their job but can also be a good leader.

Adam Grant recently posted a quote:

When we hire from the outside, we pay more to get less. Despite costing more, external hires perform worse and quit more. Promoting from within fuels individual growth and collective success. If there are never strong internal candidates, we've failed at leadership development.

I’d like to break this down a bit further for the entrepreneurs and CEOs that we work with. 

There’s two issues I see commonly among CEOs related to Adam’s quote above … the first being lack of internal leadership development, and the second being lack of quality onboarding for new hires – which we will save for another day.

Lack of Leadership Development

The impact on the business

Promoting an employee who is not ready for a managerial role can have a negative impact on the business. When a new manager lacks leadership skills, they may struggle with managing their team – leading to poor performance, missed deadlines, and increased turnover. This can lead to decreased morale among team members, lower productivity, and ultimately lower profits for the company.

Furthermore, a new manager may struggle with managing multiple tasks simultaneously, such as overseeing projects, managing budgets, and delegating tasks. This can result in a lack of focus, leading to missed opportunities and wasted resources.

The impact on marketing

Since we focus on marketing, I also want to specifically point out how failing to develop leaders on your team can impact your marketing.

As you already know, marketing efforts are crucial for the success of any business. Promoting someone who lacks leadership skills to a managerial role can have negative effects on marketing campaigns.

A new manager may struggle with delegating tasks effectively, leading to a lack of coordination and communication among team members. This can result in inconsistent messaging and branding across different marketing channels, leading to confusion among customers and a lack of engagement.

Additionally, a new manager may struggle with developing and executing effective marketing strategies. They may not have the necessary skills to analyze data, identify customer needs and trends, and create effective campaigns. This can lead to wasted resources, missed opportunities, and ineffective marketing efforts.

Tips on how to develop leadership potential among your team

When I was very early in my career, I knew that I had plans to move up the ladder, and I knew this meant I would need leadership skills. Because of this, I started looking for ways to learn and develop those qualities early. But most of my employers were not offering this to me … had I not searched out and worked on it myself, I would not have been ready when an early job put me in the position of “management.”

Not all employees have started working on their own leadership potential, not ever thought of it. This could even been part of your team that has much more experience in their field. It may have never been something they considered, or perhaps even interested in. So you need to always assume that you need to be developing these qualities in your team.

To ensure that the person you want to promote is not just good at their job but can also be a good leader, consider the following tips:

Look for leadership qualities

When considering an employee for a managerial role, look for leadership qualities beyond their job performance. Some qualities to consider include:

  • good communication skills
  • the ability to motivate and inspire others
  • the ability to delegate tasks effectively
  • the ability to adapt to change.
Most importantly, the desire to become a leader. While everyone on your team will likely benefit from leadership development, not all of them will actually want to become leaders.

Provide leadership training

Providing leadership training can help prepare employees for a managerial role. This can include training on:

  • effective communication
  • time management
  • delegation
  • problem-solving
  • decision-making. 

 It can also include mentoring programs and leadership coaching. One of my early jobs offered formalized mentoring programs, which I took advantage of and found were excellent for personal leadership development. In fact, I found these so beneficial that throughout my career, I have offered to serve as a formal mentor to other marketers and entrepreneurs.

Provide opportunities for growth

Provide opportunities for growth and development for team members who show potential for leadership roles. This can include opportunities for cross-training, shadowing other managers, and taking on additional responsibilities.

When taking on the additional responsibilities, my belief is that it should come with additional pay. Part of our corporate brand includes how we treat our own team, because how the team is treated is reflected in their work, which can include connecting with customers and how those customers are treated. Think carefully if your corporate vision and branding should be “we’re going to give you the extra work, but not the pay or title that goes with it until you’ve proven yourself for six months” … or if your corporate vision and branding should look more like “we believe in you and your potential, and are giving you more responsibility that comes with a related increase in pay, and you’ve earned a new title that goes along with it”.

Evaluate performance regularly

Regular performance evaluations can help identify employees who are ready for a managerial role. This can include evaluating their ability to manage their workload, communicate effectively, delegate tasks, and lead their team.

I see some entrepreneurs struggle with these types of performance evaluations … either they’re fearful of confrontation (and assume that these evaluations are, or need to be, confrontational), or in some cases they’re still stuck at micro-managing their team. 

I find that it can help to think like a coach of a professional sports team. (Why not little league? Because you’re in the big leagues now, and that’s where you need to focus when you put on your business hat.)

While I’ve never coached a professional sports team, I’ve had the privilege of seeing a small bit of the behind-the-scenes, mostly on the business and marketing sides, but I pay attention! Some of that analogy goes back to when I structured and then worked the sponsorship with the Dallas Cowboys. What I witnessed: when you’re the coach, you aren’t confrontational – you’re simply working with the players daily to help them improve the results of the team.  

(Okay I admit sometimes these coaches are confrontational and yell at the players … but you probably aren’t coaching professional sports team, so you CAN – and probably SHOULD – skip the whole confrontation – and especially yelling – piece. Unless you’re paying your team members salaries of 7-figures and more a year, in which case they might be willing to put up with some of that confrontation – they probably would leave if you started yelling at them anyway.)

Players are evaluated daily. You don’t need to do it that frequently, but you need to do it, formally, and when you do, it doesn’t require any form of confrontation AT ALL. I will even say these meetings will be more productive when they’re a normal part of your managing and doing business, as an opportunity for ongoing and continuous coaching and improvement.

One thing these professional coaches (ans owners) do not do?  They don’t micromanage the team. You don’t see the coach out there on the field taking the ball from the player and showing them how to hold it properly before they make the snap. Can you imagine what a professional football game would look like if the coach kept running out on the field between plays to correct the stance of one of the players? And the owners don’t do that either by the way.

You don’t see Mark Cuban running out onto the court when the team is playing and taking the ball. You don’t see Jerry Jones running out onto the field telling Dak how to throw. They may both WANT to, but they also know that micromanaging won’t get them the W. They may not win without them doing that … but they definitely won’t win if they do.

Coaching is done on the daily, but NOT by taking over or micromanaging while the team member is doing their job.

And let me tell you a secret … if you think you only micromanage “when you need to” … or tell yourself “I’m just a control freak” … then you are doing your team, and by extension your entire business, a disservice.

Set and communicate the vision, engage the team on helping set the goals, and then be the coach while letting them play the position you’ve hired them for.

Does my small business really need to worry about this now?

For CEOs and entrepreneurs of smaller businesses who may only have a small team, it’s understandable to wonder if leadership development is necessary at early stages of the business. However, the answer is yes, leadership development is important, even for small businesses.

Here’s why:

First, effective leadership is critical for the success of any business, regardless of size. Leaders set the tone for the company culture, create a vision for the future, and guide their team to achieve their goals. Without effective leadership, small businesses can struggle to compete, retain talented employees, and achieve their growth goals.

Second, leadership development can help small business owners build a strong, cohesive team. By developing leadership skills within your team, you can empower your employees to take on more responsibility, make decisions, and work collaboratively. This can lead to a more productive, efficient team that is better positioned for growth.

Are you currently a solo entrepreneur? You wear many hats and juggle many responsibilities. Invest time and attention in your personal leadership development to start.

Investing in leadership development early on can help set the stage for long-term success. By developing leadership skills within your team, you can create a culture of continuous improvement, where everyone is encouraged to learn, grow, and take on new challenges. This can help your business adapt to changing market conditions, stay ahead of the competition, and achieve long-term success.

But what if I only have contractors and not W2 staff? Do I need to focus on their leadership development?

Even if your small business only relies on contractors and not staff, it is still important to actively develop contractor leadership abilities. Effective leadership skills are essential for any individual working with or managing others, and this includes contractors.

Contractors are often brought on board to manage specific projects or tasks. In these situations, contractors need to have effective leadership skills to manage their team, delegate tasks, communicate effectively, and ensure that deadlines are met. Developing leadership abilities within your contractors can help ensure that they are better equipped to manage the project effectively and deliver quality results.

Contractors may work with other contractors or employees within your business. In these situations, effective leadership skills can help facilitate collaboration, communication, and teamwork. Contractors who possess strong leadership skills can help create a positive work environment and foster a culture of collaboration and mutual respect.

Investing in leadership development for contractors can help create a competitive advantage for your business. Contractors who possess strong leadership skills are likely to be more effective, efficient, and productive in their work. This can lead to higher quality work, better customer satisfaction, and ultimately, increased profitability for your business.

Plus, some you will develop long-term relationships with some of your best contractors (for example, even though a lot of our work is on one-time projects, I have other clients who use our marketing services monthly and have done so since I started the agency).  Considering the leadership capabilities of your long-term contractors as you grow will help your business.  Granted, not all contractors you work with will be in need of leadership training; for example, I’ve had so much of this training over the years that you would want to manage the resources you put into that development and not waste them on me … yet we would still want to have discussions related to leadership skills, when they might be needed and used, and how that looks for the future of the business.

Developing leadership skills within your contractors can help ensure that they are better equipped to manage projects effectively, facilitate collaboration and teamwork, and create a competitive advantage for your business.

Leadership vs Management

Leadership and management are two different concepts that are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct differences.

Leadership is about inspiring and guiding others towards a shared vision, while management is about planning, organizing, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals.

Here’s my definition:

What's the difference between leaders and managers? At the most basic, you manage "things" and you lead "people".

Both leadership and management are essential for running a successful business, but they require different skills and approaches.

CEOs who want to grow their business to 7-figures and beyond need to develop both leadership and management skills within their team. While managers focus on achieving specific goals and ensuring that tasks are completed efficiently, leaders focus on inspiring and motivating their team to achieve their full potential. 

Effective leadership skills can help CEOs create a vision for their business, build a strong company culture, and inspire their team to achieve their goals. Effective management skills, on the other hand, can help CEOs ensure that resources are allocated effectively, deadlines are met, and budgets are managed efficiently.

To answer the question directly, both managers and leaders are important for CEOs who want to grow their business to 7-figures and beyond. However, leadership is more effective when it comes to creating a vision for the business and inspiring the team to achieve their full potential. Effective leadership can help CEOs create a strong company culture, foster innovation, and drive growth. Effective management, on the other hand, can help CEOs ensure that resources are allocated effectively and that tasks are completed efficiently, which is also critical.

So, when you’re ready to promote someone to take on a leadership role in your business, promoting someone just because they’re good at their current job does not necessarily mean that they will also be good at leading and managing people. CEOs and entrepreneurs need to understand the importance of leadership skills in managerial roles and take steps to promote employees who show potential for leadership roles. 

By looking for leadership qualities, providing leadership training, providing opportunities for growth, and evaluating performance regularly, companies can promote employees who can be successful leaders and positively impact you business and it’s success.

Ready to uplevel your business?

We specialize in creating marketing and branding strategies that align with your business goals. Part of these strategies includes how you develop the leadership behind them.

You can book a single Fractional CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) consultation appointment to discuss how your leadership development strategy does – or does not – align with your business goals and company branding.

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