One mark of a great leader is how well they develop the leadership talent around them by attracting and mentoring high-potential individuals to their team. This is where the leader-breeder — an individual with the emotional intelligence and uncanny sense to attract, develop, and retain talent — will create exponentially more value for the organization than their counterpart, the leader-blocker. This article will explore the differences between the two in how talent is recruited, developed, managed, and moved onwards and upwards within a company.
Leader-breeders recruit and select high potential talent, even when the individual may be drastically different than the other members of the team they will join. They do not feel threatened by people with energy, creativity, or big ideas. Leader-blockers, on the other hand, recruit and select people who will maintain their enforced status quo and are a one-for-one fit with the rest of the team around them. While the potential for conflict is greater with the choices made by the leader-breeder, so too is the potential for greater outcomes through diversity and an energizing “breath of fresh air” within a team.
Now that the talent is onboard, leader-breeders observe their people, learning their strengths and weaknesses, identifying their motivators, and then harnessing these forces in mentoring the employee for positive career development. A leader-breeder will also be a role model for the behaviors that demonstrate the values of the organization. They also understand the requirement for candid feedback in mentoring and provide it in a way that is genuine and honest, without being cruel or demeaning. The leader-blocker will not have a genuine desire to see their people develop and will avoid providing feedback out of disinterest or fear that it will be perceived as a personal attack.
Leader-breeders are able to inspire employees to give their best work and live up to their full potential. They will challenge people by setting realistic but difficult goals for development and by creating opportunities to demonstrate competency and ingenuity on stretch assignments. A leader-blocker will simply place people in assignments that are comfortable and set goals for them that are below the mark of their potential. The leader-breeder is also adept at rewarding and recognizing achievement in other high performers. They differentiate the types of reward and recognition given based upon the relative contributions of team members to avoid losing a high performer who is not content with mediocrity, and will flee from a team that is.
The hallmark of the leader-breeder is someone willing to look at failure as an opportunity for learning; who can transform failure into a teachable moment to improve performance. Their counterpart prods high potential individuals back into their comfort zones through the use of blame and punishment. Neither leader can afford to tolerate the same mistake twice, but a key differentiator is that a leader-breeder will only feel that way once learning from the failure has been accomplished.
The final and perhaps most difficult aspect of managing leader-breeders is their penchant for exporting their high potential, high-performing talent. Rather than hording their key people and stunting their growth, the leader-breeder recognizes that potential is being wasted and works to find them a new assignment within the team or on other teams to the benefit of the organization.
Ultimately, it is the leader-breeders within the organization that will develop talent and build bench strength through successful identification, recruitment, development, and deployment of high-performing talent. Are you doing enough to seek out, encourage, and reward the characteristics that make your employees leader-breeders and not leader-blockers?
[This piece was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse by Jonathan Etheridge, Director of IS and CIO at Cullman Regional Medical Center.]