How to Develop Leaders Who Kick Ass for Your Company

If you’re like other founders in San Francisco, you spend an obscene amount of time trying to find the right people to join your company…and then spend very little time developing them so that they continuously kick ass for your company. 

Newsflash: If you’re not growing your people, they’re not going to be with you for very long. 

According to Gallup, 87% of young professionals today say that development and career growth is very important to them in a job. And if they’re not getting it at your company, they’ll look for it somewhere else. 

So how do you grow your people and transform them into leaders for your company? 

Let's first start out with a definition of a leader. At Epic Teams, we define leaders as people who cultivate the talent and effort of self and others towards a worthwhile goal. 

This is not about seniority in the company. This is not about personal attributes or personality styles. It’s not even about whether you directly manage others. 

This is about having the skill set to actualize self and others to their fullest potential for the good of your company. 

With this definition, everyone in your company, even if not in a formal leadership role, has the potential to be a leader. 

And the more leaders you have in your company, the more successful you'll be.  As Reid Hoffman writes in The Alliance, “The most successful Silicon Valley businesses succeed because they use the alliance to recruit, manage, and retain an incredibly talented team of entrepreneurial employees.”

When Hoffman uses the term “alliance,” he means an agreement between your company and your people to intentionally invest time, energy, and talent for mutual benefit during a specified period of time. 

While this concept is not new, so few high growth tech companies actually have a process for internally developing their people with the founder mindset to take the company further.  

Instead, most tech companies implement a version of a performance management system that is, for all intents and purposes, based on a command and control mindset. Its purpose is to provide retrospective feedback and administer rewards or punishment.

And even though there are a host of new tech platforms available to make performance evaluation easier and available in realtime, the majority are still based on this old school framework. 

That is not how you develop entrepreneurial employees. And that’s not how you cultivate leaders for your company. 

Instead of a performance management system, you need a Leadership Development System

Becoming a leader is about adopting new behaviors that result in continuous improvements in the business and in the capacity of individuals and teams. For your people to become the leaders they were meant to be, they need a system that encourages and supports these new behaviors as a team. 

Warning: It’s not enough to evaluate and mentor individual team members on new behaviors. 

Decades of sociological research tells us that new behaviors are most effectively adopted when supported and reinforced by the group. 

As such, a Leadership Development System is based on shared values, norms, and behaviors across the organization intended to help everyone perform at their best.  

The good news is that it doesn’t take much to cultivate this system because it becomes self-reinforcing very quickly. Once you have the basic structure in place to support the new habits, you’ll start to see the benefits almost immediately. 

There are three basic principles to creating an effective Leadership Development System for your startup. These principles are based on the notion that leadership is a series of skills that begins with self-leadership, progresses to one-on-one leadership, and eventually leads to team and organizational leadership.

3 Principles for Your Leadership Development System

Principle #1 Self-Leadership: Everyone in your company plans, tracks, and evaluates their own growth and performance and is properly equipped to do so.

Principle #2 One-on-One Leadership: Everyone in your company is responsible for improving the growth and performance of others and is adequately trained to do so. 

Principle #3 - Team Leadership: Everyone in your company is inspired and relied upon to improve the growth and performance of teams and has the tools to do so. 

Together, these three principles form the foundation of a high performance organization that delivers outstanding results and continuously improves over time. 

When implemented soundly, this system has the potential to create a profoundly positive cultural shift in the way your people work together and in encouraging your people to become the leaders they were meant to be. 

Shannon Hall