You may not want to hear this, so brace yourself: If you aren’t building up leaders in your business, you’re not a good leader.

Maybe you have most of the qualifications of a good leader, like having integrity, humility, and charisma. But if you are tearing down future leaders in your small business, you are lacking in the “World’s Best Manager” department.

Not to mention, building up leaders in your business is oh so important. Tearing leaders down does nothing but create a toxic work environment, stifle creativity, and prevent growth.

So, are your actions building up leaders in your small business or tearing them down?

4 Ways to build up leaders

I’m not a textbook-trained manager. In fact, I am not sure I’m a good “manager” at all. I’m just me. So, why should you listen to me?

Before I was an entrepreneur, I was an employee. At age 25, I was a bit immature; I was not a skilled, serious, or polished worker. In short—I was a goof-off. My manager, on the other hand, was an ex-Marine who was a no-nonsense problem solver.

My manager—let’s call him the MVP—gave me room to run. The MVP challenged and motivated me. Instead of micromanaging me, my manager helped build me up to be a leader.

I may not be trained in management, but I learned from the MVP … and from over three decades of entrepreneurship experience.

My approach is simple. I’m reachable and human, with plenty of flaws. I think my employees appreciate my down-to-earth management style because, like the MVP, I give them room to grow.

No, I’m not claiming to be the best manager out there. But for my businesses, my “style” has worked. I’ve built up numerous leaders who have added countless insight and innovative ideas to my businesses.

How did the MVP do it? How did I do it? Here are a few tried-and-true methods I use to build up leaders in business.

1. Set big goals, and leave the little goals to your staff

To build up leaders, you must give them authority over their work. You can do that by letting them do their work how they see fit.

Start by thinking big and setting huge goals for your business. Establish your mission and vision statement. Explain your business’s main goals to your employees.

Once your team understands what your business is trying to achieve and how their roles tie into it, give them the freedom to set individual or department goals.

You might be surprised by what your employees come up with. People are pretty innovative when it comes to setting goals and coming up with ways to achieve them. Your employees’ ideas might be so effective that you even implement them across your business!

2. Give employees opportunities to grow

If you want to build up leaders, give them opportunities to grow. Put them in leadership positions, add responsibilities, and encourage ongoing learning.

Leadership positions

Putting an employee into a leadership position doesn’t necessarily mean you promote them. The employee might not even be ready for a leadership position.

Throwing an employee into a leadership role gives them the chance to get their feet wet, fail fast and learn quickly, and boost engagement.

To give employees the opportunity to lead, you might establish committees or pass the baton during meetings.

Increased responsibilities

Adding responsibilities to a worker’s plate can put employees in a great position to test their leadership chops.

Generally, increasing responsibilities puts an employee into a sink-or-swim situation. Pay special attention to what they do and how they react, not whether they initially fail or succeed.

Many leaders are born from failure, not innate success.

Ongoing learning

Another way to grow employees into leaders is to equip them with the knowledge and skills they need for success. You can do this by providing ongoing training and learning opportunities.

Encourage employees to further their knowledge by providing education assistance, training workshops, and online certification programs.

At Patriot Software, I make sure that tuition assistance is available to both my full-time and part-time workers. That way, my employees can pursue certifications or degrees, equip my business with what they learn, and satisfy their love of learning.

3. Demonstrate what being a leader means

Many people learn by example. Kids observe their parents and model their actions after what they see. Employees tend to do the same thing with their managers.

When your employees observe you, what do they see? Do they see someone who swivels around in their chair barking orders? Or, do they see someone working alongside them?

If it’s true that people learn by example, you need to be setting a great one. To build up leaders in your business, demonstrate what being a leader means.

Exemplify all the great characteristics of leaders, like:

  • Honesty
  • Humility
  • Practicing what you preach
  • Strong communication skills
  • Responsibility
  • Empathy
  • Listening
  • Consistency

Sure, there will be good days and bad days. And, I’m not saying you’re a terrible leader if you forget to mention something to your team. But when your goal is to build up leaders in your business, you need to show them what being a leader truly means.

4. Measure, measure, measure

Giving employees the freedom to make their own goals and do their own thing isn’t a free for all. You aren’t doing your employees any favors if you fail to provide constructive criticism.

As an employer and manager, it’s your responsibility to inspect what your team is doing from time to time and give feedback. If something isn’t working and your employee hasn’t figured it out yet, it’s time for some tweaking.

Measure if your employees are reaching their goals. Ask employees to come up with their own measurement methods, too. Employees must measure their results so they know whether their actions are effective or not.

3 Ways you might be tearing employees down

Many people in leadership positions tear down future leaders without even realizing it. This can lead to a plethora of workplace problems, including resentment, disengagement, unoriginal ideas, and even turnover.

Here are three big ways you might be crippling the future leaders of your business.

1. Breathing over their shoulders

Showing employees you care is good. Helping them tweak and measure their work is also good. But, breathing over their shoulders? Not so good.

Avoid getting the dreaded nickname of “micromanager.” A micromanager tries to manage every little thing an employee does. If you’re always sticking your nose in an employee’s day-to-day activities, you could be limiting a future leader.

2. Keeping information to yourself

Knowledge sharing is critical to business success. It equips employees with what they need to make educated decisions, set reachable goals, and work effectively as a team.

As important as communication is in the workplace, it’s apparently lacking. One study found that 91% of employees said their leaders lack communication skills.

Failing to share information with employees guarantees their knowledge stays limited. That also means their creative capabilities are limited, too. Without access to important business knowledge, your employees might struggle to collaborate, perform redundant work, and (you guessed it) fail to grow as leaders.

If you’re worried about exposing things like trade secrets, ask your workers to sign a confidentiality agreement.

3. Being quick to take credit and pass blame

If you want to tear leaders down in your business, be quick to take credit for great ideas and pass the blame for bad ones.

Sixty-three percent of employees said that their leaders don’t recognize their ideas. And, 47% went so far as to say their leaders took credit for their ideas!

Again, building up leaders in your business requires you to act as an example. What kind of example takes credit for their team’s hard work?

To avoid this toxic faux pas, give credit and constructive criticism to your workers. Show your employees you appreciate their strengths and help them improve their weaknesses. That’s how a leader is born!