Great leaders build great companies, but they are restless in nature and unless companies invest time and money in developing their top leadership talent, the chances are they will move on.
"And this can be a serious threat to business continuity and a company's success over the long term," says Deon Kruger, Managing Director at human.kind advertising, a leading South African branding and advertising company
"Leaders are not satisfied with mediocrity and not one great leader will admit that they have achieved their full potential. Leadership development never stops because leaders will always find themselves in new and challenging environments that will call for further development or training. If you stop developing the leaders around you, you may as well close shop."
While leadership development is particularly relevant in the branding and advertising industry - which is characterised by high staff-churn and where building stable client relationships is essential for long-term customer-retention - Kruger says all companies, whatever the size and whatever industry they are in, should have a clear plan for the future that includes identifying, developing and retaining competent leaders to lead them through their crucial stages of development.
"For any company to reach its full potential it needs the right people and the right leadership in place to take it to the next level, so when a potential leader with all the right 'stuff' rises to the fore, companies should act fast and acknowledge it before they lose that critical talent," says Kruger.
He believes that some of the best leaders can be found within the ranks, which is why managers must get to know their team members well, be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and regularly observe their behaviour and responses to different situations and problems.
"When someone who is not a natural leader is forced into a leadership role, you will always just have weak to average leaders because the average leader cannot develop leaders better than him or herself. As the old adage goes, you are only as strong as your weakest link.
"True leaders will naturally distinguish themselves from the rest of the team and those with the qualities and competencies of a great leader must be nurtured, mentored and developed to their fullest potential," says Kruger.
He points out that identifying potential leaders is probably the easiest part. The real challenge lies in choosing the right people for the right leadership role because a great leader in the wrong position will not be effective.
"You need to be able to identify future leaders and then match their personality types, skills and potential with the right position within the organisation," says Kruger.
Kruger says that a culture of developing leaders should be instilled during a company's early stages when there are just two or three staff members.
"Many businesses are the result of an extraordinary individual with a great idea but unfortunately some just end up fading away with the original members because they lack the right leadership to take them forward.
"An agency for instance can go from four to 40 members almost overnight and great leadership is imperative to manage this growth and change," says Kruger.
At human.kind advertising, instilling a culture of developing leaders has been a priority from the very beginning and the company has benefited immensely from this approach.
"When you instil a culture of developing leaders within an organisation, it changes how people think about their roles and how they see their future within the company. Our people have clear development paths and know where they are going.
"Leaders in each department are fully accountable for their own teams and already developing the next level of leaders. Their task is to mentor and encourage their teams and in turn develop their potential. Staff turnover is at an all-time low and productivity at an all-time high," says Kruger.
He concludes saying that leadership development is ongoing and continuously evolving.
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