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How do you scale leadership as a company grows?

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When companies are small, it’s easy. The leader can simply walk around to keep everyone aligned and motivated. But as companies grow, great leadership becomes harder and harder to deliver. Leadership is most often the hardest thing to scale as you grow an enterprise.

How to scale leadership as your company grows

Scaling leadership into an organization involves two obvious things:

  1. Coaching and developing leaders
  2. Ensuring effective internal communication

Let’s take a closer look at what’s involved in developing leaders, making communication happen, and sustaining these as an organization grows.

1. Developing leaders

The good news is, leaders naturally emerge in an organization. The trick is to spot them early. Here are seven things to look for in a potential leader.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk has observed that most of the critical leadership skills and behaviors reveal themselves and can be practiced early in one’s career. As she points out, it’s a continuous learning experience:

“Becoming a capable leader is an evolution—a co-mingling of training, coaching, and exposure to the types of challenge that offer the opportunity for both insight and growth.”

One example of this in practice is McDonald’s, who prove this point by developing 65% of its corporate leaders from employees who started on the floors of their restaurants.

Developing emerging leaders happens step-by-step through ongoing coaching and by presenting them with the right series of challenges and training, as their leadership awareness develops.

2. Ensuring good internal communication

To be effective, leaders need to enable communication at all levels in their organization—from privately seeking input, to publicly pushing out a new initiative. Great leaders are thoughtful about these communications, sequencing things to build consensus, create alignment, and reinforce directions.

Let’s consider each of these stages, in the context of moving forward on a major initiative or project:

Building consensus involves reaching out to stakeholders and subject mater experts to clarify opportunities and settle down requirements. This entails things like one-on-one discussions, polls, and working groups, to bring different viewpoints together as the detailed plan emerges.

Creating alignment involves:

  • providing clarity on how the work will be split between certain teams and individuals
  • documenting the requirements and game-plan (and making this easy to find, reference, and update)
  • sharing the high-level goals and approach with the broader organization, so everyone can rally and assist when required.

Ongoing reinforcement involves project reviews and keeping the broader team informed on progress. A big part of this is recognizing individuals and teams for specific contributions along the way and celebrating each major milestone.

Note that emerging leaders need opportunities to develop and practice these activities around planning and communication. These are things developing leaders first practice as individual contributors, and then progress through small projects, to leading their own team.

In the broader sense, effective internal communication requires that leaders display transparency and develop trust. This needs to include easy, comfortable ways for employees to comment, suggest, and provide input.

Conclusion

As organizations grow, it becomes hard for leaders to connect and communicate with their teams. If this is something you’re experiencing then using your intranet to reach people can be a simple and lasting solution. It can even help you accelerate the development of your next generation of leaders.