When we talk about leadership in business, we’re not just focused on those at the top of the chain of command. No, for a company to be successful, everyone needs to take a leadership role. That means fostering each person’s skills and interests and helping develop those baseline abilities within the framework of professional core competencies.

Get the Breakdown

There are five primary levels within the core competency framework and the first step toward identifying an individual’s leadership potential is understanding which of those five they excel at.

For example, the lowest competency level is “Managing Self” and we expect entry-level employees to grow in their communication and problem solving skills – higher self-management abilities – over time. But a good manager can also identify when an entry-level employee shows the nascent ability to manage others or even lead an organization. And it’s a manager’s job to foster those potential skills.

Map the Mind

One of the great truths about competence, as opposed to our stagnant perception of intelligence, is that it’s something people build and develop, not something that naturally exists. That’s why, though you may see signs someone is inclined towards a certain role, you need to give them opportunities to grow.

The best way to do this is by studying both skills and individuals using cognitive research methods and matching team members with particular abilities to suitable tasks.

Each time you allow an employee to explore a new activity based on burgeoning rather than developed skills, you’re presenting them with a growth opportunity. This is a task for individual managers, but also for your board as a whole. Team projects that draw on multiple skill sets are an ideal opportunity to see who rises to lead, who’s great with data, who can negotiate, and more.

Diversify Your Board

We see it all the time: a company grows in ways that reflect the people on the board. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since board members are typically quite successful, but it is limiting and can prevent your company from exploring new directions.

Ideally, your board should excel at generative thinking – coming up with new ideas, angles, and alternatives, competitive or strategic thinking, and fiduciary thinking. If your board leans too heavily on one of these angles, the people who move up the ladder are likely to think in the same ways. Over the years, that can become extremely limiting.

When you diversify your leadership, you provide mentorship opportunities for any staff member with leadership potential, but when you offer narrow models of who’s fit for the corner office, that’s how we replicate systems of exclusion. It’s why women don’t make it to onto as many boards and don’t hold as many CEO positions. They aren’t provided with mentors who are willing to foster their existing competencies and potential.

When Service Is Leadership

Finally, it’s easy to think that we build junior staffers’ competencies by leading and hoping they follow and then model our actions, but sometimes we need to take a step back and provide psychological leadership – by offering empathy and seeking personalized means of motivation.

This kind of emotional intelligence and deep understanding may seem coddling to those for whom this isn’t a natural trait, but you may discover that it’s the best way to build people up while also building their skills.

At the end of the day, people need more than the skills to lead; they also need the confidence. Can you give that to them?

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Jenna Cyprus is a freelance writer and business consultant who covers business, technology, and entrepreneurship. She's lectured for several universities, and worked with over 100 businesses over the course of the last 15 years. She's a mother of two kids, and loves to go camping, hiking, and skiing with her family.

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