The strong leader makes his mark, puts his vision into action, and then moves on. It is the expectation that the vision continues to grow in the future. Often though, when the leader moves on, there is no successor who can continue and expand the implementation. This break in leadership is a consequence insufficient effort to the development of the next generation. As the example below shows, this is an old problem.
Genghis Khan spent almost forty years in constant warfare to build his Asian empire. In his 60’s, he was at the height of power, without competition either from within his tribe or from an external enemy. He realized that he had a problem—there was no clear successor. He had not devoted enough attention to developing the leadership skills in his four sons. These four men did not get along, did they have the vision of his leadership principles, and were resistant to change. Genghis Khan, ruler of most of Asia, tried many methods to develop his sons, but it was too late. The succession plan was a compromise. Even in the first several years after Genghis Khan’s death, the battle campaigns were less effective and the resources began to be looted internally. The Mongol empire did endure, for a long while, but it was a shadow of Genghis Khan’s vision.
Similarly in a modern organization, when a visionary manager is replaced by a person who cannot meet the increased responsibility, the direction is lost. The performance of the organization suffers.
Strong managers are often not seriously evaluated for employee development. Their ambition and energy are elsewhere and they may not appreciate the importance to the organization. Lesser caliber managers may take the view that, as they individually move upward, they will not be accountable for what they leave behind. Both approaches lead to inadequate training of the next generation. Some starting points for assessments are needed.
An individual responsible for evaluating the manager’s contributions to subordinates’ growth can observe a number of different actions to gauge the performance. Looking in specific directions is the key.
Actions to Observe
Does the manager map out the projects, set the directions, and then assign small pieces to the subordinates?
Do the subordinates actually make decisions comparable to their abilities?
At meetings, do subordinates express their opinions or confirm agreement?
Comment: Managers who do not delegate may achieve results, but do not develop competence in their subordinates.
Which type of questions do the subordinates tend to ask?
“What does (the manager) want?” or “What does this situation require?”
Comment: Subordinates, who are trained to look to the manager for direction, are not gaining the skills required for leadership.
Does the manager rely on a small inner circle, excluding others from responsibility?
Comment: Favoritism certainly has advantages, but staff development is not one of them.
For subordinates who have been reporting to the manager for at least one year, can you, independently, observe unusual skill growth in the subordinates?
Comment: If the change is observed independently, then query about the manager’s role in the skill growth.
Does the manager encourage or criticize individuals who have opposing positions?
Comment: Criticizing legitimate dissent stifles others.
Observing actions such as the above examples provide a starting point for assessing the manager’s contributions to the subordinate’s skill growth. It also provides a real foundation for a discussion during the appraisal interview. Most importantly, the crucial issue of leadership development can be addressed.
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