The KISS Model of Leadership Development

by Jennifer Miller on May 3, 2012

in Leadership

Has developing future leaders at your company become a complex web of activities?

With formal processes like talent reviews, individual development plans, and high-potential candidate reviews, it’s no wonder that you feel swamped and put leadership development on the back burner.

There is another way to develop leaders. I suggest that when you are overwhelmed with the formal “to do’s” of developing your team’s leadership skills, go back to the basics: keep it simple.

Using the “Keep It Sweet and Simple” model (KISS), any leader, no matter the size of their organization or the availability of formal development practices, can create simple, effective leadership development opportunities for their team members.

Here’s your four-step plan:

Keep it real. Don’t fabricate a development opportunity. Look for real tasks and projects that people can lead. When people feel they’re making difference on a “real” project, they’ll really step up.

Integrate into daily activities. Leadership ability is developed when people are nudged out of their comfort zone. Opportunities to strengthen someone’s leadership muscles are everywhere. Look around you— where can you delegate tasks that will build your team members’ skills in leading others?

Show them how it’s done. The best way a leader can develop others is by setting a good example. If you are modeling solid leadership practices, you are showing your team “this is what good leadership looks like.” Are you a positive leadership role model?

Start with small wins. “Big win” challenges don’t come along that often and when they do, you want to be sure your team members are ready for them. To prepare your team, start with low-risk leadership tasks.  Be on the look-out for ways your direct reports can achieve small successes that will accumulate into a portfolio of “wins”, which builds their confidence.

Specific suggestions:

  • Delegate the leading of department meetings to your team members. Rotate responsibility.
  • Send one of your team members as a “proxy” to a cross-functional team you belong to. (Note: run this by the team’s leader first.)
  • Help your team members see leadership opportunities. “John, I noticed you didn’t speak up at the XYZ meeting. Why was that? It would have been a great opportunity to showcase your expertise on _____ and to demonstrate your leadership abilities.”
  • Have a super-star performer? Train him or her to be a coach/mentor to others on the team.
  • When you see leadership, recognize it. Be sure to praise any leadership activity you see. When you say, “Susan, I appreciate the leadership you showed when you offered to help Tom out with that tough customer situation”, it helps Susan envision herself as a leader.   

Developing the next generation of leaders doesn’t need to be complex. But it does need to happen consistently. Use the KISS template and you’ll never lack ideas for ways to grow your team’s leadership skills.

Additional resources: I’ve researched and compiled a list of free leadership development resources. Check them out here and here.

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