9 practical tips for developing leaders at every level

three colleagues working together on a chart to develop leaders at every level

In the current climate, organizations face more complex challenges than ever before. In these tumultuous economic conditions, employers must think outside the box to engage and retain staff.

As a result, there's never been a greater need for strong leaders. These are people who not only steer the ship in the right direction, but inspire others to come on board with them. Beyond just the C-suite, these leaders can come from unexpected places within your organization.

Read on to learn how you can identify future leaders in your company — and help them reach their full potential.

Table of contents
What is leadership development?
What are the benefits of developing leaders in your organization?
9 ways to develop leaders in your organization

What is leadership development?

Gartner defines leadership development as preparing current and potential leaders to perform effectively in their role¹. This involves developing skills like emotional intelligence, management style, communication skills, and decision-making.

Traditionally, leadership development has been expensive and time-consuming. As such, organizations have been forced to be selective about the leadership talent they choose to nurture.

This leaves a vast workforce of high-potential employees untapped. Future leaders exist at all levels — from interns and junior employees to mid- and senior-level professionals. Many of these individuals are high-performing, ambitious employees who are keen to get ahead in their careers.

However, research shows that in 42% of companies, high performers are actually less engaged than low performers². Often, they will become disengaged by the lack of targeted professional development, and leave. As the expression goes: people don't leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers.

In a competitive marketplace, losing these star players simply isn't an option. So, it's important to be proactive about nurturing their leadership potential.

What are the benefits of developing leaders in your organization?

If there's one thing every successful company in history has in common, it's an effective leader. As the well-documented rise and fall of companies like WeWork and Theranos show: the people at the top can make or break the fate of a company.

So, why exactly is leadership development crucial for organizations? Because it is directly tied to these benefits:

Improved employee engagement

Good leaders create a positive work environment and build strong relationships. Studies show that engaged employees are more committed, motivated, and productive³. This leads to higher job satisfaction and employee retention.

Enhanced productivity and performance

Strong leadership is directly linked to higher productivity and better performance. Effective leaders inspire and motivate their employees, set clear goals, and give constructive feedback. Research consistently shows that supportive leadership improves overall team and organizational performance⁴.

Better talent development and retention

Offering leadership development shows that you value your employees' professional growth. This increases job satisfaction and reduces turnover. When employees see a clear path for advancement, they are more likely to stay with your company long-term.

Greater innovation and adaptability

Good leaders foster a culture of innovation and encourage employees to think creatively, take risks, and adapt to change. These skills enable leaders to navigate complex challenges and drive innovation.

Positive company culture

Leaders play a key role in shaping the culture of an organization. A strong leadership development program emphasizes ethical behavior, transparency, and evidence-based decision-making. This creates a positive and inclusive culture. Leaders who demonstrate these qualities help to create a cohesive and enjoyable work environment.

Stronger company reputation

Effective leadership also impacts customer satisfaction and the overall reputation of the organization. Leaders who prioritize customer-centricity inspire their teams to deliver exceptional experiences. Satisfied customers become loyal advocates, positively impacting brand image and bottom line.

What leadership skills are needed for remote and hybrid roles?

Ways of working have shifted radically over the last few years. With an estimated 16% of employees working remotely and 61% working hybrid, dispersed teams have become the norm⁵. As a result, the soft skills successful leaders need have changed considerably.

According to Randstad, the most important interpersonal skills for remote teams⁶ are:

  • Communication: Being a good communicator means more than staying in constant contact with your team. By harnessing interpersonal awareness, you can tailor your communication to the needs of each team member.
  • Time management: Strong leaders have a keen awareness of exactly what the team should be working on at any given time, with the goal of maximizing productivity and efficiency.
  • Initiative: Remote work means that it can take longer to get a response from a colleague on a project’s status. Leaders don't hang around waiting — they are proactive in taking action to drive things forward.
  • Service orientation: This refers to a person’s ability to anticipate and meet other people's needs. Effective leaders take a human-centered approach to ensure they are being of service to others.
  • Adaptability: Uncertain times require leaders to embrace ambiguity. Staying flexible allows you to explore alternatives when plans change.

Cross-functional collaboration is another valuable skill in the current workforce. This refers to running projects that interface with various teams and departments across the company. Accenture found that companies with cross-functional collaboration achieve a 22% higher profit⁷. Breaking down silos allows for more diverse perspectives, which leads to greater innovation.

Fostering interdisciplinary collaboration requires a solid understanding of what makes your people thrive. An assessment tool like Fingerprint for Success illuminates team motivations, affinities, and differences. This takes the guesswork out of setting up high-performing, cross-functional teams.

F4S can be utilized by individuals, teams, C-suite leadership, or company-wide. By inviting your entire organization to participate, you can identify the greatest potential for leaders and provide access to professional development for all employees.

Here’s how you can get started:

  • Take the free assessment and gain instant access to your workplace motivations. You’ll get a macro-level understanding of what energizes you at work and what can be draining. Then you can delve deeper into your traits on a micro-level.
F4S dashboard shows your unique workplace motivations
F4S dashboard
  • Anyone can create a team and invite your colleagues to join by taking the assessment. With our free account you can invite up to 5 people to compare your results. You’ll gain key insights into your teams unique motivational fingerprint including your:

Team culture. This shows what’s important to your team and how they are motivated

develop leaders by understanding team culture

Team Affinities. This reveals what builds energy, enjoyment and flow to your team

develop leaders by understanding team affinities

Team Benchmarks. This is one of the most exciting features of the F4S assessment as it uses scientific research to compare your motivations to highly successful entrepreneurs.

F4 team benchmark ranking chart

Team Differences. You’ll see how your team may differ in their approach and preferences. Understanding these can bring harmony and balance to your team when harnessed. Diverse teams thrive!

F4S team differences chart showing internal vs external reference for decision making

Accelerate understanding between teams

Breadth

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Motivated by macro big picture thinking, these teammates value moving quickly to connect dots between abstract ideas to 'get the gist' of things.

Chart showing rage from Average, High and Ver High.

vs

Depth

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These teammates value being concrete and specific, getting into details to understand the steps or tasks required.

Chart showing rage from Average, High and Ver High.

See the different work styles in your team

Take the free assessment & set up your team

In using F4S within your organization, you can uncover leaders and further develop them with our AI coaching. We offer 11+ coaching programs! 90% of uses accomplish their goal upon completion of the coaching program.

What to consider before creating leadership development programs in your organization

Here are some important questions to answer prior to planning your program:

  • Have you identified a tried-and-trusted framework for your leadership development program?
  • How will you resource it? Will you use internal coaches, external consultants, or AI-based coaching?
  • What is your budget? The cost of professional development can be hundreds of dollars per hour. F4S is accessible, offers scalable pricing and you can get started with the free assessment.

9 ways to develop leaders in your organization

Ready to get serious about nurturing leadership potential in your organization? These leadership development strategies will get you started on the right track.

1. Establish a company-wide leadership program

If you're looking to scale your leadership training programs for the first time, it can be tricky to know where to start. Here's a framework to put you firmly on the path to success:

Identify the need

Determine the skills your company needs to achieve its future goals. Then, perform a gap analysis between these objectives and current competencies. Benchmarking – or looking at how you stack up against industry top performers – is a great place to start.

Set program objectives

Determine exactly what you hope to get out of the leadership development program. It's important to set clear metrics or KPIs to measure its success.

Design the program

Use your clearly defined needs and goals to inform the key areas of focus within your program. For example, will you focus on developing communication skills, or project management capabilities? Also consider how your program will be delivered, whether via workshops, courses, coaching, or 1-1 mentoring.

You can simplify this step by using a leadership development tool like F4S. The program has been thoughtfully designed based on cutting-edge science. You can even tailor the content to each individual, with 11+ different coaching pathways to choose from.

Assign facilitators

Will your program be delivered by internal coaches, or external consultants? Leveraging AI-based coaching like F4S' Coach Marlee is a more scalable and accessible option.

Choose program participants

Even if your program will be available to all employees, it can be useful to start with a handful of early adopters. They will be able to help you iron out any kinks, and champion your initiative to future participants.

Communicate the vision

Your employees will likely have to take time out of their busy schedules to take part (although with F4S, it can be done in less than minutes per session!) So, it's crucial to ensure they understand the ‘why’ behind what you're doing.

Execute and evaluate

Assess the impact of the program on your leadership pipeline. Track metrics such as employee performance, engagement, retention, promotion rates, and leadership effectiveness.

2. Learn to recognize high-potential employees

So, how do you identify which members of your organization are future leaders? After all, the reality is not every hire will be an A-player from the get-go. Important leadership qualities to look for include empathy, resilience, interpersonal effectiveness, and problem-solving.

Another is strong ownership. Look at how a potential future leader approaches their current role, no matter where they sit on the corporate rung. Do they 'own' and take responsibility for their projects, even if it's not technically their job? This can be a strong predictor of leadership potential.

One important caveat: no matter how observant or in tune with people we may be, we all have blind spots that prevent us from seeing leadership potential in others. For example, maybe your idea of a strong leader involves being direct and outgoing, but a potential leadership candidate on your team may actually present as quiet and reserved.

That's where technology comes in. Our evidence-based assessment is 90% accurate at measuring and capturing the X factor for success. Based on 20+ years of research, it measures 48 motivations. This can help you identify leadership behaviors, even in people who don't yet have any direct reports.

3. What are the important soft skills to develop leaders in your organization?

As mentioned, problem-solving, communication, and interpersonal skills are important for leadership roles. However, our research delves even deeper into the traits required by strong business leaders. These include:

Internal frame of reference: Being able to look within for answers helps you take the lead and make quicker decisions.

Lateral thinking: Taking an unconventional approach to problem-solving reveals surprising solutions.

Affective communication style: Great leaders inspire others through body language and non-verbal communication.

People orientation: Being a 'people person' proves useful when it comes to leading teams and organizations.

Pioneering: Innovation and leadership go hand in hand. Those with a pioneering leadership style fearlessly champion new ideas and make them happen.

4. Hire high-potential employees

One of the best ways to develop strong leaders in your organization is to hire them! This doesn't mean needlessly creating new leadership positions (you know what they say about too many chefs in the kitchen). It's about looking for people who already exhibit leadership behaviors, no matter their current job level.

But, how do you go about identifying high-potential candidates?. Fingerprint for Success' talent acquisition features help remove bias from the hiring process. Our work style assessment predicts culture and role fit with sharp accuracy. Plus, our ranking report lists candidates based on how closely they align with top performers in their industry.

5. Create internal leadership and management training opportunities

It's important to make the most of the people you already have inside your organization. After all, you never know which bright, future leaders are already on your team. Research shows that internal leaders are more effective at strategic future planning⁸. As they have risen through the ranks of the company, they have strong inside knowledge they can call upon.

However, good employees often need nurturing to become great leaders. This is why it's important to have a strong internal leadership development program in place. Fingerprint for Success takes an evidence-based approach to identify top talent in the company. Using a questionnaire, it uncovers your employees’ hidden motivations and strengths. You can then use this to create a tailored action plan to develop their leadership skills.

6. Provide leadership development coaching

Often, organizations rely on current leaders to facilitate their leadership development program. These senior leaders often take on a mentorship role to help mentees work through challenges. While this approach can work, there's something even more effective: coaching.

Coaching takes a more structured approach to professional development and skills training. When done well, it is free from some of the inherent biases that exist in a mentoring relationship. This is because mentors tend to draw upon their own personal experience, rather than use an evidence-based approach.

Research shows that 93% of companies report lower turnover when they offer coaching to employees⁹. Not only that, but companies receive an average return of $7.90 for every $1 invested in executive coaching — a strong ROI, to say the least¹⁰.

Historically, leadership coaching has been delivered by human coaches who charge an average of $400 per hour¹¹. However, thanks to companies like F4S, coaching is now more accessible, affordable and scalable. It also delivers results that are comparable – and in some cases, better – than human coaches. Our research shows an astounding 90% of F4S users achieve their goals within 4 to 9 weeks.

7. Make employee development transparent and inclusive

Previously, employee development has been a privilege reserved only for those at executive level. Companies like F4S are committed to removing these barriers by making their services open, transparent, and accessible to all. This means removing cognitive bias from the talent acquisition and development process. This results in processes that are more inclusive, fair, and equitable.

embed how to build diverse teams here: https://youtu.be/bS7R93G19rI

8. Support all employees to (affordably) improve their leadership performance through AI coaching

These days, the workforce consists of baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z — with the latter expected to represent 27% of the workforce by 2025¹². Each of these demographics has their own work styles and attitudes.

For example, Gen Z is known for their more relaxed approach to work and communication. They are also extremely passionate about the issues that matter to them. However, junior employees typically have less disposable income. It's important that companies provide a professional development solution so they're not out of pocket. F4S' AI-based coaching provides an affordable solution that can be scaled to all levels of the organization.

9. Use people analytics to monitor, measure and reward your employees

It's not enough to simply implement a leadership development program and hope for the best. It's crucial to monitor the ongoing development of your employees so you can make adjustments, if necessary. F4S' platform makes this easy with our powerful people analytics.

Our 'Me Over Time' feature makes it easy to track your own progress, and that of your teammates. You'll also receive helpful benchmarking reports that highlight:

Green zone: motivations that align with entrepreneurial traits

Orange zone: motivations that need more focus

Red zone: blind spots that urgently require attention

In addition, F4S uses data visualizations to track team culture, affinities, and potential areas of friction. It's about empowering them to be their best selves at work so you can reward them accordingly.

Start building leadership skills with Fingerprint for Success today

From new hires and first-time managers, all the way up to the C-suite, leaders exist at all levels. A leadership development program makes it easy to retain, engage and develop these superstars.

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  1. Gartner. (2022). Definition of Leadership Development - Gartner Human Resources Glossary. Available at: https://www.gartner.com/en/human-resources/glossary/leadership-development
  2. Murphy, M. (2018). 3 Reasons Why High Performers Are Often Miserable. Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/markmurphy/2018/07/01/3-reasons-why-high-performers-are-often-miserable/?sh=57de713545fc
  3. Boyd, G. (2022). Impact of Employee Engagement on Productivity & Quality | Insync. Insync. Available at: https://insync.com.au/insights/impact-of-employee-engagement-on-productivity/
  4. Tombaugh, J. R. (2005). Positive leadership yields performance and profitability. Development and Learning in Organizations, 19(3), 15–17. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1108/14777280510590031
  5. Kothari, M. (2023). 50+ Essential Hybrid Workplace Statistics to know in 2023. Quixy. Available at: https://quixy.com/blog/hybrid-workplace-statistics/
  6. Randstad USA. (2022). Soft Skills Every Remote Worker Needs. Randstad USA. Available at: https://www.randstadusa.com/job-seeker/career-advice/career-development/soft-skills-every-remote-worker-needs/
  7. Accenture. (2020). The Benefits of Cross-Function Team Collaboration. Accenture. Available at: https://www.accenture.com/au-en/insights/industry-x-0/cross-functional-collaboration
  8. Lafley, A. (2016). The Art and Science of Finding the Right CEO. Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2011/10/the-art-and-science-of-finding-the-right-ceo
  9. Fingerprint for Success. What is Coaching? Fingerprint for Success. Available at: https://www.fingerprintforsuccess.com/blog/what-is-coaching
  10. Fingerprint for Success. What is Coaching? Fingerprint for Success. Available at: https://www.fingerprintforsuccess.com/blog/what-is-coaching
  11. Saletta Leadership, LLC. (2022). Cost Of Executive Coaching 2022. Saletta Leadership, LLC. Available at: https://salettaleadership.com/cost-of-executive-coaching/
  12. Zurich Insurance Company Ltd. (2022). How is Gen Z changing the workplace? Zurich Insurance Company Ltd. Available at: https://www.zurich.com/en/media/magazine/2022/how-will-gen-z-change-the-future-of-work
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