Improve your leadership development

5 Ways to Encourage and Support Developing Leaders

Nurturing the leadership skills of our colleagues makes it significantly easier for us to build better companies. This article details ways to identify and support our rising leaders, including clarity, communication, culture, coaching and recognition.


Ah, leadership. What a meaty topic. 

One of the great, unresolved debates is: Are leaders "born leaders," or are they developed?

To begin with, even the definition of leadership is up for debate.

So what's a leader? 

Leaders are simply people that other people follow because they trust that the person has: 

  1. The ability to lead; 
  2. A compelling vision for where we want to go; 
  3. The competencies required to help us get there; 
  4. A character we trust, and 
  5. Is generally someone we'd like to have around us over the long run.

At Ninety, we believe leaders rise to the occasion, and it's silly to pretend one can simply "spot" who is a leader and who is not without experiencing them in action. We'll never know until we see a leader successfully leading. 

Candidates for future organizational leadership can emerge from all employment levels: support staff, front-line workers, supervisors, executives, and even CEOs and board members. Once identified, leadership development often entails collaborative activities that help them expand their insights, abilities (aka competencies) and confidence. 

An often-cited 2019 report by Gap International indicates that most company executives surveyed consider nurturing leadership skills in employees and wanting them to succeed is very important for their organizations' success. However, in a striking contradiction, less than half believed their current employees could become good performers, and consequently, they didn't want to invest in any form of leadership development. Ugh. 

Despite this disconnect, it's well known that thoughtful leadership development processes make it significantly easier for people to discover their leadership style, elevate their coaching abilities, extend their knowledge of the company's overall value creation process and champion their organization's culture and vision. All of this helps both the employee and the company.

So, once identified, how do we encourage emerging leaders? Here are five powerful ways to support leadership development in our companies.

1. Show a Clear Path and Timeline for Leadership Development 

Emerging leaders prioritize their career development. Companies that provide employees with a clear understanding of the leadership opportunities, including the steps necessary to advance and the time required to reach their professional goals, will attract great leadership talent and retain great leaders.

2. Facilitate Feedback

One of the ways to engage emerging leaders is to give them continuous feedback on all levels. They are more likely to stay motivated and productive when they know that you want them to grow with the company and that their growth is important to you. Give them opportunities to take courses relevant to industry leadership, introduce their own ideas as solutions and offer their opinions as valued input in company discussions.

3. Take a Coaching Approach

Emerging leaders need inspiring and knowledgeable coaches at every level. Leadership development through coaching and mentoring takes off where training ends, focusing on potential and performance more than standards and compliance, allowing people to elevate their thinking. Being the coach and being coached creates a culture where shared knowledge and feedback can make a real impact.

4. Let Personal Betterment Be Part of Your Culture

Supporting their proactive commitment to personal betterment is essential if you scout leadership talent from all backgrounds and levels. Online resources, conferences, membership in professional associations, internships, leadership development programs, support networks, periodicals and other publications — utilizing various tools to engage emerging leaders at different stages will demonstrate how your company values it.

5. Consider Leaders with an Eye for Greatness

Leaders lead. They don't need to be a "manager" to show leadership abilities. We'll see them helping our colleagues. We'll see them helping others, their teams, the department and the company grow. They'll appreciate it when we publicly praise valued behaviors and actions and will likely be delighted when we promote them. 

Attracting and retaining emerging leaders will not get easier in this New Age of WorkTM. At the risk of stating the obvious, Work from AnywhereTM will make it easier for people to find their version of a great Workplace. The best Workplaces support continuous growth, recognize the above-and-beyond contributions, and create an environment where developmental opportunities happen organically and become part of the culture. It's wise not only to demonstrate that we support individualized leadership development opportunities but to make it easier for our people to help us build extraordinarily productive, humane and resilient companies.

How Ninety Helps

Ninety's integrated business building and awareness tools make it easy for you to identify and develop emerging leaders and create a healthy, functional and cohesive leadership team. For instance, you can:

Ninety's tools create a clear way for leaders to see specific roles and responsibilities and how they are measured:

  • Easily track Rocks to give status updates, make changes and see Rock completion rate at a glance.
  • Add and delegate Milestones and automatically tag Milestones as To-Dos if not completed.

Sign up for a free trial with access to all of Ninety's functions, features, and support. We guarantee that you'll love it.