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How Do We Acquire Contagious Leaders?

How do we recruit (or groom) “contagious” leaders — people who spread their skills and develop more leaders? I know it won’t be easy, but give me some idea how to go about establishing this type of leadership culture.

— Leadership Sickness, Oil and Mining, Alabama

May 30, 2014
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Dear Leadership Sickness:

Recruiting and grooming people who will perpetuate a contagious leadership culture must start with support from the C-suite. First and foremost, senior leadership will need to prioritize this effort and supply the financial resources necessary. But money isn’t the only driving factor: What’s most important is providing leadership by example.

To spread the types of leadership behaviors you desire, there must be a visible demonstration of this commitment at all levels. A mentoring program, for example, is a great way to demonstrate what you value, so that’s where you should begin.

Start by selecting a small group of leaders who exemplify the behaviors you want to replicate, along with a member of your senior management team to serve as the sponsor. Generally speaking, you’re looking for extroverts with strong communication skills and genuine enthusiasm for leadership development in themselves and others.

Be specific when you tell this team what their mission is, how they can contribute, and what the payoff will be. Everyone is doing more with less these days, so it’s important to remember that even the most dedicated among us are not likely to carve out time for activities that bring no reward. But for many, the reward is simply the recognition for doing something important and the opportunity to contribute at a higher level.

Mentoring can be formal and structured or informal and loose, but it must happen with regularity. Leaders who volunteer to be mentors should be responsible for making it happen and for talking up their efforts around the company. Additionally, your corporate communications team or HR should publicize your mentoring program and include supportive comments from senior leadership. What’s important to the C-suite will become important to everyone else.

Mentoring that fits your company culture and is publicized properly will go a long way toward demonstrating what you value. But even a strong program is not enough by itself to transform your organizational culture. In addition, you’ll want to build leadership performance, evangelism and the development of others into performance appraisals. Nothing gets attention more than objectives that have an impact on salary at review time.

After institutionalizing expectations around contagious leadership, you’ll want to recognize and reward it. It can be quite inspiring for leaders and individual contributors alike to see others get recognized for their successful contributions to company culture. We tend to emulate those who are successful, and often people will look to those who are recognized as the examples they should follow.

As we know, actions speak louder than words. By dedicating time, resources, recognition and senior leadership involvement, you will create a contagious leadership culture and propel your organization toward higher performance all around.

SOURCE: Alan Preston, Preston Leadership & Just Enough HR, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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