The series of acquisitions we have made over the past few years have taught us a lot about our business. But few of those lessons have been as important as the need for organizations to effectively lead leaders.
That may naturally happen in some respects within an organization. But the ecosystem of an acquisition is completely different. Now, you’re depending on a leader you probably don’t know. Some companies make it a practice to have an existing leader or manager move to the new market. That has not been our strategy. Instead, we’re committed to mentoring new leaders and teaching them to do the same.
Our ability to stay relevant is a direct result of hiring and developing leaders, whether it is through acquisition or internal personal development. We’ve invested significant resources into developing a talent management system recently for that reason. We recognize that the future of our company depends on our ability to develop future leadership. Here are just three of the ways we do that:
1. Recognize leaders outside of the organizational chart.
We have the traditional management structure with frontline, middle, upper and executive management. But we have now created a talent management system that identifies those informal leaders who already have the followers and just need additional guidance.
Emerging leaders do not hold a formal title in the organization and may not even have an interest in leadership, but they have the qualities. Every organization has these leaders and you always know them when you see them. They are an essential part of the infrastructure of any organization and a good place to look for your future leaders.
2. Limit direct reports.
Individuals can only effectively lead so many people. In my experience, the magic number is ideally eight. As our teams grow, we intentionally add management to keep them within a size that a leader can effectively reach. Being a good leader is not defined by the number of direct reports you have, although some people may think that’s the case. Often times you need to scale back your direct reports to be a better mentor. We have leaders who have a large responsibility in our organization, but have fewer direct reports. They lead leaders who lead leaders who lead leaders. This equation has worked well for us as we continue to expand.
3. Develop a signature style.
We all know what style of leadership appeals to us because we’ve all been followers at some point in our career. Identifying what elements you benefitted from and weaving them into your own leadership style is a good practice. For example, I reported to one of our company founders, Gary Marsden, for many years. Today my leadership style is a combination of some of his traits, augmented by my own personal characteristics. This is not something you’ll learn in a classroom or read in a book. You have to be intentional and committed to get the desired results.
As we have grown over the years, especially recently, we have found that it has required more leadership infrastructure to effectively run our business. If we are going to remain relevant long-term, we need to be committed to leadership development at all levels. This required us to invest in a comprehensive talent management system that positions our people for the future. Is your organization positioned for leading leaders?