My whole life, people emphasized the importance of being a leader. Whether it was in sports, school or work, leadership was always something adults told us to strive to embody. The problem I always noticed was that being a leader doesn’t mean the same thing in every situation, and leadership definitely doesn’t mean the same thing to every person. Growing up, I was always frustrated with leadership training. Being a leader can be described in so many different ways; how can you train someone to fit the mold of a leader, if not one size fits all? The importance of leadership is undeniable, but the way society approaches developing leaders is not very effective.
By no means do I think we’ve found the key to cultivating leadership; however, I do think we’ve made some strides in moving away from the antiquated approach of “leadership training.” Below are four ways we develop leaders within our organization:
Understanding Leaders Aren’t Just at the Top
At TaskUs, we understand leaders – at any level – have the ability to make or break an organization. And as CEO, I know that I am one of many leaders within our company. Recently, TaskUs was recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the 500 fastest-growing companies in America. I know that a large part of our ability to sustainably grow at such a rapid pace is due to the incredible leadership we have within our organization. Earlier this week, I wrote about how to inspire your employees and briefly discussed the importance of “developing” not “training” leaders. It’s important you focus on developing leaders at every level of your company that inspire employees, initiate positive change and serve as examples to the rest of your team.
Reward, Rinse, Repeat
In order to develop great leaders, you have to place great emphasis on encouraging, rewarding and highlighting stellar performance and model behavior. Today, our most successful employees worked their way to the top. Five years ago when TaskUs was operating as a virtual assistant business, Jed Cipriano joined our team. Jed showed incredible initiative as he recruited, trained and implemented new management techniques and infrastructure to yield an extremely efficient virtual workforce. Over the years, he has continually proved himself to be a thoughtful, engaged and extremely valuable leader. Today, he is the operations director, managing and leading over 500 people out of our office in Manila. Jed is one of many TaskUs employees that have raised through the ranks into a management role. It’s important that every employee within your organization knows they have the opportunity to grow within their role, so that lack of upward mobility is never a concern. Your team will see that hard work, dedication and positivity are rewarded, so they will strive to embody those characteristics.
Let Leaders Lead
Leaders emerge because their peers and co-workers view them as leaders. Bosses can be appointed, leaders cannot become a leader without the consent, respect and backing of the of their co-workers. As such, I trust that every one of the leaders within TaskUs got to where they are because they proved their ability to lead everyone around them. While I might think my particular management style and leading methods are the most effective, I do not force my preferences on the entire company. This is especially important if you have employees from different countries and societies. What is strong leadership in the U.S. is not always viewed as strong leadership in the Philippines. Similarly, the way we develop leaders in the U.S. is different from how leaders are developed in Manila.
It Sounds Lame, But Have FUN!
Recently, our management team and leaders from different levels of the organization partook in a day-long leadership development exercise in Manila. Previously, I talked about how to build company culture from afar. The elements I discussed in forming remarkable company culture apply directly to developing leaders: communication, competition and celebration. Although, I did not partake in planning the events, communication, competition and celebration were the core elements of every activity. Leaders from the office there developed the “curriculum” and took to the streets of Manila to engage in fun leadership-building activities, including: a scavenger hunt, a race to different historical landmarks, outdoor puzzles and more. In the words of one of our operations managers Richard, “It was a team building activity that lends itself to a lot of sweat, rain, a little heat stroke here and there, sprints and dashes, and a lot of laughter. Despite all of this, it was successful because of the participants unceasing resolve, camaraderie, intelligence, humor and fervent hope of winning the race. All elements of the qualities that make a great leader.” Providing resources for leadership initiatives helps build and encourage employee engagement, productivity and loyalty.
It’s essential you deeply value the contributions of your leaders; they are the people on the ground floor that have the best grasp on the day-to-day happenings of your company. By investing in people and leadership, you develop a sense of community where your employees feel valued. If your employees, at all levels, believe their efforts and contributions make a difference, they will work their absolute hardest.