Develop New Leaders By Giving Them Opportunities to Lead

At some point, most leaders need to promote a new leader. In Episode 133 of the Lead From Anywhere podcast, I provide several examples of when and how you can give employees leadership opportunities before promoting them, and how you, the current leader, can support those employees while they are developing into leaders.

When Developing Leaders, Give Them Opportunities to Lead – Listen Now!

Develop New Leaders Before Promoting

A couple weeks ago, I talked about how to have that initial conversation with a potential new leader. The next step is to give the potential new leader opportunities to lead BEFORE they would be promoted.

Whether you need to promote someone into a leadership role because the company has an opening, or you have a key employee who wants to keep growing and you need to see how they handle leadership tasks before a promotion opportunity arises, here are several ways you can kind of test an employee’s leadership abilities before actually promoting them.

Give The New Leader Opportunities to Lead

The first opportunity to develop a new leader is to assign them to lead a special project. There are many examples of special projects that need to be done – updating processes, changing software, updating the culture playbook, or making a plan for a big transition. Assign that special project to your potential leader to run, and make sure they have a team to lead, as well.

Another leadership opportunity is to have your potential leader take the reins when you take a vacation. Clearly communicate to everyone on the team who the leader will be while you’re away. Then go on vacation! If an employee contacts you while on vacation, redirect them to the individual you left in charge. The person you left in charge should be the only one who contacts you while you are out of the office. How often they contact you during that time can be an indicator of if they are ready for leadership. IF you can’t take a vacation, that exercise is still a good one to go through even while you are in the office. Maybe you assign that person to take the lead for a couple of weeks while you finish a special project of your own.

Another opportunity you can extend to this potential leader is asking them to mentor a newer employee. I would suggest giving the potential leader a road map for mentoring, but then step back and watch.

A few other ideas would be to have this potential leader take over leading staff meetings. Or you can ask them to take on learning and education projects where they are responsible for training a room of their peers, and then holding their peers accountable after the training ends.

Those are just a few ideas. If you are still unsure of what opportunities for developing your new leader, delegate one of your own leadership duties to them for a short-term period, and see how that goes.

Your Role In Developing A New Leader

Your role while you observe the potential leader is to be there to support and mentor that person. Don’t answer the questions from the staff that person is supposed to be leading; make sure that individual is leading the team. Be there to continue guiding the new leader and give them feedback along the way.

You will want to make sure to debrief with them, as well. Discuss what you observed, how they felt, what they thought they did well, what was uncomfortable for them, and identify what additional support they needed from you.

If you know you need to promote someone into a leadership role, giving them the opportunity to lead will show you whether the potential new leader is ready. Ideally, you would give those potential leaders a chance to lead before there is a need to promote, so that when the time comes, you will already know they are ready.