It’s back to school season here in the USA. If you’re like me, in the past few weeks you have torn around your favorite big box store, desperately trying to find that last box of glue sticks (I swear the kids must eat this stuff), pencils (can’t they just type everything?), and several boxes of cabernet (teacher supply lists have come a long way since I was a kid). Maybe you recently dropped your kids off at college or maybe you’re just stuck behind a school bus imagining what it would be like to jump over it- Dukes of Hazzard style.

Since everyone is either going back to school or putting up with others who are, it’s a fine time to think about developing leaders. The crankiest among us are probably saying, “I’ll tell you about my leader school, it was the school of hard knocks! Leaders these days have it easy- back in my day we had to work for a living! None of this Twittering or Bookfacing or four-dollar coffees! Neh!”

But as leaders, a major part of our job is developing other leaders. Why? Because building leadership capacity in our organizations increases getting-stuff-done capacity, higher-quality-work capacity, and happier-engaged-I-don’t-hate-my-job capacity.   It also ensures the sustainability of our organizations- yes, we have to leave our organizations better than we found them- and increasing leadership capacity creates value for the future.

Want to develop leaders? Here are 5 things you can do, starting today:

  1. Coach or mentor other leaders. Share your wisdom and experience. Ask thought provoking questions.
  2. Give plenty of feedback- both positive and developmental.
  3. Set aside money for development- classes, external coaches, college degrees, conferences, you name it (you can subcontract part of your leader school duties).
  4. Put others in challenging, but developmental, stretch assignments. Then help them learn as they go- see step 1.
  5. Open doors, knock down barriers, and create job opportunities. One of the top drivers of engagement? Having a career path and being developed at work.

Pick a few of these to focus on over the next few months- at least until Thanksgiving. When you sit down for turkey (or Turducken or Tofurky) reflect on your progress- have you made a difference in your leader school? Or are you stuck behind a school bus, wishing for summer vacation and hoping someone else is developing your people?



Tom Epperson

Tom Epperson

Dr. Tom Epperson is the President of InnerWill, and an instructor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Executive MBA program. Tom is a certified business coach and has a Doctorate in Leadership from The George Washington University. Tom works with clients on cultural transformation, leadership development, executive coaching, and igniting individual and organizational potential. Previously, Tom served as the HR Director for Luck Companies, and played a significant role as one of the architects of Luck Companies’ cultural transformation.

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