You might not realize it, but your company’s most important assets walk out of your office every day at 5:00 p.m.

If that idea doesn’t scare you, consider this: Some of the most successful startups in the United States were founded by people who left jobs at other startups.

Having your best performer become your worst enemy can’t be a good feeling. Retain these employees by empowering them to become the future leaders of your company.

Talent retention is just one of the many benefits of encouraging employee leadership. You’ll also find that innovative ideas will flow more freely, your company will be run more effectively, and your ability to scale up will increase exponentially.

Leadership Breeds Leadership

As a COO, one of my biggest responsibilities is making sure that my company has a framework in place that allows us to scale. In order to do this, I devote a lot of attention to the efficiency of our processes, our teamwork skills, and our rate of innovation.

Encouraging your employees to own up to their responsibilities and take an active role in growing your company is key to maximizing output. They should feel inspired to lead alongside senior managers, not beneath them. The greatest leaders know how to rally their troops and treat them as equals.

Google does an especially great job of this. The company goes out of its way to encourage its employees to come up with innovative ideas and take the lead on implementing them.

We need to follow this example and incubate leadership at our own companies. Here are the four main benefits of doing so:

  1. You’ll boost productivity. Without proper guidance, many of your employees probably feel pigeonholed into the work silos of their cubicles. They gravitate toward finding a comfort zone and do just enough work to scrape by. Once you empower your employees, you’ll see an increase in their desire to overachieve and produce better results.
  1. You’ll enhance creativity. When they’re encouraged to lead, employees will be more apt to think creatively and search for innovative ways to improve workplace productivity. With a heightened sense of responsibility, employees will come to work eager to contribute their ideas.
  1. You’ll discourage bureaucracy. Enabling your employees to serve as leaders will level the playing field and remove the hierarchy from your business model. Bureaucracy breeds superiority and inferiority complexes, which don’t provide any benefit to your workplace whatsoever. 
  1. You’ll create a team of winners. With the installation of this new leadership culture, your staff will transform from a group of individual employees into a team that shares one common goal: the betterment of the company.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to instill this mindset in your company. Training tomorrow’s leaders will not only benefit your business, but it will also benefit the world as a whole.

Installing Leadership Culture

Telling your employees to read inspiring books and attend lectures will only get them so far. The best learning tool is experiencing leadership. Here are four tips that will help you lead by example and develop your employees’ skills:

  • Define roles. When employees are uncertain about their roles, they’re less likely to lead. Clearly spell out your expectations to give them the firm footing they need.
  • Inspire participation. Encourage every employee, regardless of his position, to speak up, question the way things work, and propose innovations. The best ideas sometimes come from the most unlikely sources.
  • Encourage teamwork. When you break your employees up into teams, you encourage them to take on both formal and informal leadership roles. This practice will lead to improved communication throughout your organization, a greater ability to capitalize on opportunities, and better problem-solving skills. Talent wins games; teamwork wins championships.
  • Delegate effectively. Delegation will help you set your own priorities and create new opportunities for your employees. Give them tasks that will help them learn and grow. Get them out of their comfort zones.

While incubating leadership, make sure that you’re providing ample avenues for employee feedback. Offering a suggestion box so they can anonymously assess your training techniques and make general gripes or suggestions is a great option. Be sure to actually listen to their advice. Great leaders are open-minded and willing to change. When your employees see these traits, they’ll feel compelled to provide honest feedback in the future.

Good leaders do not sit in a corner office and bark commands. They identify problems, provide solutions, and inspire others to lead.