By Tom Fitch
If you are a leader, people look to you for direction, guidance and assurance. So considering the influence you have on the people who follow you, you have to ask yourself, “Have I done enough to prepare the next generation of leaders?”
That is the question that author Andy Stanley poses in his new book, “Next Generation Leader: Five Essentials for Those who will Shape the Future.” Stanley, who is a minister and author of several leadership books, writes that leaders should pay close attention to the legacies they leave behind because those legacies affect the future. “In leadership, success is succession. If someone coming along behind me is not able to take what I have offered and build on it, then I have failed in my responsibility to the next generation.”
Stanley uses his own upbringing as an example of how he was prepared to become a leader. His father was an accomplished leader who put his family first, and his mother was very nurturing and prepared him to leave the nest with the skills he needed to thrive in an unpredictable world. His parents gave him a lot of freedom. He didn’t have a curfew and when he got his first speeding ticket, his dad’s only comment was, “Better slow down.” But through the vision they cast and the opportunities they provided, he was given the opportunity to become a leader.
This foundation allowed Stanley to become a leader, but he wanted to become more than that. He wanted to become a leader of leaders. In the book, Stanley identifies five areas in which leaders can help prepare the next generation of leaders.
Five areas to help prepare the next generation of leaders
“Next Generation Leader: Five Essentials for Those who will Shape the Future,” by Andy Stanley
1. Competence. A good leader doesn’t have to be good at everything. Some leaders waste time trying to upgrade their weaknesses into strengths so that they can be seen as well-rounded. But Stanley believes that you should invest your time in your core competencies and delegate the rest. “The less you do, the more you accomplish … and the less you do, the more you enable others to accomplish.”
Using the popular 80/20 Principle, 80 percent of what you achieve in your job likely comes from 20 percent of the time spent. So, four-fifths of your efforts are probably irrelevant. Leaders should work toward changing these numbers around and spend 80 percent of their time on their core competencies.
To identify your core competencies, ask two or three people who know you well and employ others where they would place you in their organization. Where would you add value to their organization? Where would you be most successful? What area or areas should you avoid? This insight will help you start to discover your strengths.
2. Courage. Being a leader requires a lot of courage because you have to make tough decisions that can be unpopular and sometimes even hurtful to others. Who wants to do that? So some leaders instead play it safe just to avoid uncomfortable situations even though they know what needs to be done.
But people don’t respect a leader who doesn’t have the courage to act, Stanley points out. “A leader is someone who has the courage to say publicly what everybody else is whispering privately. It is not his insight that sets the leaders apart from the crowd. It is his courage to act on what he sees, to speak up when everyone else is silent.”
3. Clarity. People think that uncertainty is an indication of poor leadership and that leaders are supposed to know what to do in every situation. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, uncertainty is a necessary condition for leadership. And uncertainty actually increases with increased leadership responsibility. The key to handling uncertainty is to be clear. Stanley writes, “If you are unable or unwilling to be clear when things are not certain, you are not ready to assume further leadership responsibilities. In fact, the people who communicate the clearest vision in an organization will often be perceived as the leader. Clarity is perceived as leadership.
4. Coaching. Many leaders don’t like to show vulnerability or admit that they are still learning. But as the clarity chapter points out, it’s OK to have uncertainty. Strong leaders should be dedicated to constantly learning new and better ways and to constantly improving themselves. A coach or counselor can help in this department by working one-on-one with them and helping them refine their skills. Yet, as Stanley points out, “We are willing to spend outrageous amounts of time and money on perfecting our putts, serves and swings. But when it comes to our leadership, we resist input. Maybe it’s the way leaders are wired. Maybe it’s pride… but on more than one occasion I have interfaced with young leaders who had great potential but who were unteachable.”
5. Character. Character is not required to be a leader, but it’s what makes you a leader worth following. People may follow you, but not because you deserve to be followed. There is a significant difference between having a following and being worth following. “To be a leader worth following, you must give time and attention to the inner man. To leave a legacy that goes beyond accomplishment alone, a leader must devote himself to matters of the heart.”
How do you rate in each of these areas? Are you doing everything you can to help prepare the next generation of leaders? I hope you will take the time to reflect on this important question, and then determine what you need to do to shape the next generation.