Developing Effective Leadership Within Your Organization

Written by Cherie McLaughlin.  She be reached at:  

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Your organization is only as strong as its leaders. So why does your company keep hiring leaders rather than developing them from within? While external leadership hires can be the right choice in some situations, like when your business needs a fresh perspective, most companies find they get better results when they make leaders, not hire them.

What Makes Effective Leaders?

Effective leaders know how to get things done. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re do-ers. Rather, effective leaders possess a set of soft skills that make them natural managers, decisive problem-solvers, and excellent communicators. When companies put the right person in a leadership role, people naturally gravitate toward them and want to work together toward their vision.

Unfortunately, these are exactly the kinds of traits that are hard to quantify in an interview. Perhaps that’s the reason management hires fall short 82% of the time, according to Gallup.

Instead of playing roulette with leadership hires, organizations should develop leaders from within.

Good Leadership Matters at Every Level

Innate ability matters in leadership, but it’s not everything. While one in 10 people possess the natural talent to manage, another two in 10 have the ability to excel in leadership roles when given the right support.

When companies develop internal leaders, they have the opportunity to identify those employees and mold them into future leaders. By starting leadership development early, companies not only cultivate well-rounded leaders, but they also ensure that employees have strong management at every level of the business.

When companies have good leadership at every level, they also benefit from:

Remember that your best leaders aren’t necessarily your highest performers. As the Harvard Business Review explains, “The performance level of individual contributors is measured largely through their ability, likability, and drive. Leadership, by contrast, demands a broader range of character traits.”

Qualities to Look for in Leadership Hires

Whether you’re promoting from within or making an external hire, there are certain qualities a leadership hire needs to have:


There’s no question that charisma is important for leaders. Without charisma, leaders struggle to get teams behind them. However, charisma without authenticity is just as bad — if not worse. Authentic leaders make people want to follow them, whereas a lack of authenticity sows distrust.

Decision-making ability

Strong leaders know how to take action despite risks. That’s not to say they rush into situations blind. Rather, good leaders know how to make the most of the information they have without getting paralyzed by analysis.

Communication skills

69% of managers feel uncomfortable communicating with employees, according to research. That’s unacceptable in a role where communicating goals and directions is a primary responsibility. Strong leaders should have emotional intelligence and cultural competency in addition to basic communication skills.

A sense of service

Good leaders aren’t driven by personal accomplishment. Rather, they’re invested in the success of their team as a whole.

Developing Leaders in Your Organization

Here’s how your organization can commit to developing leaders from within.

  • Identify prospective leaders early. Cultivating leadership at lower levels builds a strong business from the ground up.
  • Invest in leadership training. The soft skills that make good leaders are the hardest to train for, but they’re also the most important. In manufacturing, customized continuous improvement training programs and coaching can help leaders make positive process improvements. For other industries, existing leadership may consider encouraging and incentivizing employees to seek higher education in fields such as business administration at online universities.
  • Create mentorship relationships. Pair employees with existing leaders within your organization to help them develop the skills needed to move into leadership roles.
  • Be the leader you want to see. Company culture starts at the top. In order to cultivate great leaders, executive leadership needs to display the leadership behaviors they want from others.

The best leaders are made, not hired. Instead of looking outside to solve your company’s leadership gaps, focus on cultivating leadership skills from within. Not only will you improve leadership at the top of your organization, but by developing leadership from the bottom-up, you’ll strengthen your organization at every level.

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