It’s funny how many people end up in leadership positions by default. Sometimes they just step forward to fill a vacuum (“oh alright, I’ll lead the Cub Scout pack if no one else will.”) Sometimes they’re promoted based soley on their technical skills (“heck, she’s the best programmer we have — let’s make her a project manager!”). And sometimes the applicant for a job looks so good on paper that those in charge of hiring fail to notice certain, um, quirky social habits.
But in the best of worlds, leaders actually are groomed for leadership. Sure, they may have a certain innate knack for getting along with and leading groups of people. But they also are recognized by mentors, cultivated, and given a chance to grow into leadership positions.
As such, being able to cultivate others is an important aspect of leadership and, in my experience, a not-so-common one. Some leaders, alas, are threatened by the idea of actually helping others grow their skills or reach their potential, and so tend to keep others down (or out). Some seem to think that the best way to “manage” is to throw people into situations and let them sink or swim. And still others seem to be oblivious to the fact that employees need to progress — or they’ll leave.
Of course, in order to cultivate others, you need to be secure enough to let someone else flourish in your presence, as well as experienced enough to understand what pathways might be available to him or her, and emotionally and socially intelligent to know just how to inspire and guide that person to follow those paths. That’s kind of a tall order, but it’s not impossible. As Jim Clemmer notes on his Practical Leadership blog , cultivating others is like cultivating a perenniel garden: You have to understand that not everyone thrives in the same spot.