How to Develop Leadership Skills in Employees

Company Culture HR leadership leadership skills mentoring staffing

By Brett Farmiloe

From thinking like a manager instead of like a mentor to understanding your entire team leads, here are 10 answers to the question, “What are your best tips for new entrepreneurs to develop their people as leaders so the employees and organization are set up for long-term success?”

How to develop leadership skills in your team

1. Be a mentor instead of a manager

“In the urgency of starting a business, it’s easy to just manage your people—telling them exactly what to do, making sure things are delivered on time, etc. But if you want to set your company up for long-term success, think like a mentor instead of a manager. What lessons can you help your employees learn? Where can you help them stretch their skill sets? How could you develop them with a powerful coaching session? Don’t think like a manager, think like a mentor, and it will lead to a team that can truly help you build.”

Logan Mallory, Motivosity

2. Delegate your authority instead of tasks

“There is an old saying that practice makes perfect, and this can apply to developing your employees to be leaders by delegating your authority and preparing them to help guide your organization for long-term success.

“Most owners and managers have experience delegating tasks, but this gives an incomplete picture of what leadership entails. By taking this model one step further, you can provide your team members the chance to acquire the necessary skills to lead. Delegating your authority to team members to organize projects, put together teams, run checks, and calculate eventual results is critical if they are to learn the entire process of taking a leadership role.

“By delegating your authority to team members, you can give them a greater perspective of what total responsibility looks like and help them obtain what they need to ensure your business’s long-term success.”

Cody Candee, Bounce

3. Guide them through networking

“Though it is important to train potential leaders in the operations of your business, you also have to instruct them how to manage from the outside in, and this means that you must teach your employees networking to build your long-term success. They need to develop relationships, and this requires a more nuanced understanding and approach.

“Showing them the best opportunities to meet people, taking them to events, introducing them to key individuals, and guiding them on how to foster a relationship, is critical to providing your employees the full picture of what drives a business. By going beyond the mechanics of your operations and teaching the intricacies of networking, you can prepare employees to be leaders while setting up your organization for long-term success.”

Matt Miller, Embroker

4. Have a formal training program

“Whether you’re a team of two or more than 10, you should have a formal program in place to train people to take on leadership roles as your business expands. Start soft skills training programs that are scalable, like virtual courses, so that learning isn’t cost-prohibitive. Those costs won’t grow until your needs grow.

“Also, one of the best development assets you can share with a small team is yourself, so offer mentorship to deepen relationships and help guide your employees to become strong future leaders.”

Ruben Gamez, SignWell

5. Hire colleagues, not employees

“The only way to truly develop leaders in the early stages of an organization is to hire people who are at your level or higher in terms of experience, knowledge, and creativity. You want people who will do more than just execute your vision. They will help create your best practices, build company culture, and ultimately build the foundations of your business.

“If you only hire people early on who do what they are told without question, you won’t experience the kind of growth you would by hiring peers. You will inherently prepare this first round of employees for leadership by being a team of collaborators instead of a hierarchical structure of boss and employees.”

Gates Little, altLINE Sobanco

6. Emphasize internal mobility

“As an entrepreneur, I know the value of a good team; I wouldn’t have been able to grow my firm nationwide without qualified leaders heading up every branch. My top tip for ensuring companies find the right people for these roles? Emphasize internal mobility.

“Every single person in your workplace should have a path toward a better role. Not only does the promise of internal mobility keep workers motivated and empowered, but it also ensures that when you’re ready to promote, you have access to a slew of candidates who already know the inner workings of your company and are invested in its outcome. Letting employees know that there is room for growth encourages them to envision themselves as leaders from day one.”

Rob Reeves, Redfish Technology

7. Promote more autonomy

“Micromanagement is the bane of leadership development and general engagement, which is great news for new business leaders who likely already don’t have enough time in the day to complete all of their tasks. As a new business leader, build a work culture of autonomy that naturally strengthens leadership skills and keeps your team a lot happier. Set up your team with the tools and skills they need to move forward with transparent expectations and goals. Provide support, ask for feedback, and offer it regularly—the more you keep two-way communications open, the fewer issues you’ll have.

“When you empower your team to work autonomously and continuously support them with minimal limitations, they’ll naturally become stronger leaders with the right cultural values to help future subordinates do the same.”

Denise Hemke, Checkr

8. Develop people as leaders

“Ensure that new hires are well-integrated into the organization. By having an onboarding process that can include mentorship programs or onboarding activities, employees will gain access to the resources and skills they need to be successful leaders within the organization.

“Also, periodically invest in workshops or classes related to an employee’s field of expertise, such as software development, marketing strategies, or organizational management. This can allow newer members to stay abreast of changes in the industry while also providing senior staff with opportunities to develop further skills and insights into more advanced topics.”

Grace He,

9. Offer professional development opportunities

“The best way for entrepreneurs to develop their people as leaders is to create a culture of mentorship and continuous learning within their organization. By encouraging employees to seek mentors and coaching, entrepreneurs can help them develop the skills, knowledge, and confidence they need to become effective leaders.

“Additionally, it’s important for entrepreneurs to lead by example and model the behaviors and values they want to see in their employees. This means being open to feedback, being willing to learn and grow themselves, and fostering a culture of transparency and collaboration.

“Entrepreneurs should invest in their employees’ professional development. The absence of such opportunities is one of the leading causes of retention issues and burnout.”

Dominic Monn, MentorCruise

10. Allow employees to lead from the start

“Every business has a wide variety of projects that need to be undertaken or teams that need guidance. By allowing each employee to take charge of a specific project or team, under the entrepreneur’s guidance, the employee will learn to accept accountability and take ownership of their team’s output. They will become empowered to make decisions and solve any problems they encounter, all of which will stand both the employee and the business in good stead as the business strives toward its goals.”

Jonathan Elster, EcomHalo

About the Author

Post by: Brett Farmiloe

Brett Farmiloe is the founder and CEO of Terkel, a Q&A site that converts insights from small business owners into high-quality articles for brands.

Company: Terkel
Connect with me on LinkedIn.