7 Steps to Grow Leaders Growing Leaders from Principle to Practice

There are few responsibilities more joyous than growing a leader. We see them flourish and become a more capable person. Their life changes, not just at work, but also at home. Yet, many times it is hard to see that growth initially…

In this article, I want to share with you the seven principles I use to develop leaders.

Successfully growing leaders requires believing in people even when we want to give up on them. It means covering for them when they mess up. Investing in leaders takes patience—and love. It takes a great leader to raise a great leader.  But you must do it because that’s what you are called to do. You cannot lead successfully if you cannot raise leaders successfully. Here are the seven principles I employ.

1—I share a principle.

When I am training a leader, I like to sum up each leadership lesson with a principle. I am intentional to share principles with those I am training—concise truisms that will stick with them. Sometimes they are catchy, sometimes not. My goal is to make it memorable, like my principle on personal effectiveness: “Do only what you only can do.” I aim to share lessons I have learned and lived, principles I know personally to be true. Sometimes what I share is a multi-point lesson. For example, this article came to be from a conversation I had with one of our leaders about training leaders.

2—I teach what I have modeled.

The ideal scenario when you share a principle is that you have already established a history of applying it. Otherwise, the person you are training may have a hard time believing that it works. If you have worked with someone for years, they know you. They likely know the underpinning of why you do certain things. So when you share a principle authentically, it sheds light on why you do what you do. However, if they cannot match your words with your actions, they may not be able to learn and internalize the principle. Instead, they may be thinking, “Well, if she can’t do it, then I don’t know if I can pull it off.” Or, “If she can’t do it, maybe it cannot be done.”

3—We practice role play.

I value role play. As a doctor, I did a lot of that in my training: how to interview a patient, how to examine a patient, and how to practice certain procedures were all done in a simulated setting with peers and volunteers. Whether your training is formal or informal, the more you can perform simulated experiences, the more comfortable the person becomes to do what needs to be done in real life. For example, practice how to handle a difficult situation or resolve a conflict. First, I share a principle with a person and instruct them on what they should say. Then I say, “Okay, let’s role play. I am the angry staff member. What are you going to tell me?”

4—Watch me do it, then debrief.

After role play comes a time for the person to watch me do what I am training them to do. I like this step to come after I have shared the principle, that way they can match what I am doing with the principle I have taught them. For example, a person may have seen me resolve a tense situation, but they were not aware of the principle or formula I was using. Now that we have practiced resolving a tense situation, they watch me apply the techniques and compare it to the principle they just learned. This way, they can solidify what they should do by matching my mannerisms in a real life situation with the ideal outcome we are seeking to achieve. Afterward, it is important to discuss what just happened and see if they have questions.

5—I’ll watch you do it, then offer feedback. 

After one or two times that the trainee sees me demonstrate what I have trained them, I let them handle a situation and watch them. I sit back and observe, then give them feedback at the end. I repeat this for as long as I feel they need my help.

Remember you cannot train people to be just like you. When we have done something for years, our tendency is to expect others to be quick and intuitive like us. We forget that for us it is second nature because we have done it for a long time. Make sure they have the core of what they need—all the necessary principles and skills—then let them try without your supervision.

6—I’ll give you my roles.

It is important as a leader to hand off what we do to the people we are training. Look for roles that you handle and give them away. My goal is to give everything I do to someone else to do. I want to live a life of empowering others as much as I can, and that happens by giving them the roles in which I have found success. After they take over, then I am free to take on new roles and new battles.

7—I’ll hold you accountable.

We have a system in which we give each other feedback—not yearly, not quarterly—but weekly. Feedback is part of our normal interaction. When giving feedback is not possible, wether it is because the other person cannot accept it or because our relationship does not allow it, I simply recuse myself from leading them. Remember this, if you cannot give feedback to a person, you should not lead that person. Of the seven steps, this I believe is the most important because as long as that person is on your team, they must be growing and training. You, as their leader, are the person to safeguard that training and growth. Giving feedback is as central to growth as the heart is to a living body.

I encourage you, my friend, to continue expanding your abilities to grow the leaders around you. I hope these steps help you on that journey.

Your Friend,
Wes Saade MD Signature

For Further Reading:

Two Powerful Principles of Leadership
Without Training, You Will Be Mediocre

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