Developing leaders at all levels

Every year, HR and business leaders from around the world participate in Deloitte’s survey about human capital trends. And for the last five years, these professionals have continued to cite leadership as one of their top talent challenges.

This is problematic. An organization without strong leadership is like a manual car without a driver. It’s not going anywhere.

In many cases, these shortages are the result of top-heavy leadership pipelines that focus on growing only the highest-level executives. Without developing lower-level employees, retiring senior leaders can easily find themselves with unprepared successors in their place.

Locally, the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Genesee County work to develop all levels of leaders through a yearlong program called Leadership NOW.

During this introspective program, participants gain self-awareness around their leadership styles, and learn how to develop effective partnerships. Each cohort includes a broad range of professionals, representing a variety of industries, backgrounds and career levels.

Over the course of the year, participants attend interactive courses and one-on-one coaching focused on six core functions of leadership: creating a vision, developing followership, implementing the vision, following through, achieving results and team playing.

Understanding these functions and how to make them happen is beneficial to all professionals—from entry level to executive. When professionals can clearly express their thoughts and delegate tasks to co-workers, for example, they are going to be much more effective at their jobs than they would be otherwise.

What’s more, these leadership skills are transferable in all aspects of life— including community. This is why each Leadership NOW cohort is challenged to put their newfound knowledge to use by executing a sustainable community project.

For example, Leadership NOW’s most recent cohort worked together to expand the horticulture and hoop house program offered through the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Flint. The group before that helped create a gathering space and outdoor library in a local neighborhood. Both of these projects had many moving parts and involved collaborating with many different people—both in and outside of the program.

These projects are an important part of Leadership NOW as they illustrate what leaders can accomplish, not just in the workplace, but in the greater community as well. It prepares them for the future work they will do in addressing challenges and pursuing opportunities in Flint and Genesee County.

Looking forward, 10,000 baby boomers are retiring each day—something that will continue through 2029. And as these men and women exit the workplace, they take with them valuable knowledge and skills, leaving behind big shoes to fill.

It sounds intimidating, but based on what I’ve seen with Leadership NOW, I feel confident in saying that the talent pool in Genesee County has the feet to fill them.

DeAndra McCain is a Group Vice President at the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.

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