John C. Maxwell noted in his book Good Leaders ask Great Questions the importance of the idea of building others up. He suggested asking yourself this question: “Am I building people, or am I building my dream and using people to do it?” There’s a stark difference between the two. Leaders recognize that people building is their most important calling. If they empower and develop their people, the enterprise will grow as well.
Maxwell also said that one of the questions people subconsciously ask of their leaders is “Can you help me?” The answer to this question is at the crux of servant leadership. For leaders, the question isn’t “Can I help you” but “will I help you?” In order to attract the best people as followers the answer must be a resounding YES!
To assess whether you are in the business of building people, you might ask yourself some follow up questions.
· Am I setting my people up to succeed?
Do you give your people the tools they need to be effective not only in their current positions but in future positions? In people building you must look beyond the present. You might have the best people in the world. Are you willing to help them grow beyond your influence?
· Do I support or stifle their career and personal development?
Are you willing to see followers move on to better opportunities? When someone asks for a letter of recommendation to you resent them for it or are you genuinely happy to do it? If you’re reluctant consider this: there’s actually very good reason for you to encourage your people to grow to their highest career potential, even if it’s not within the ranks of your organization.
General Electric is widely cited as a leadership development organization. Dozens of former GE employees have gone on to run a variety of Fortune 500 and other publically traded and private companies. And GE continues to produce leaders at an amazing clip. What’s in it for them? Well, for starters they have become a destination employer for top talent looking to grow themselves. They subsequently have a massive number of very high producers in their ranks. When one person moves on there are two other people to fill their spot. But that’s not all. What would you expect the attitudes of those former employees is like toward their former employer? It’s easy to see that they leave with good feelings and a willingness to work with GE
· Do I encourage and instruct my people through challenges?
Clearly there are boundaries in individual relationships but every leader should, at the very least help their people with challenges that fall within the realm of their authority. A leader who is aloof and seemingly ignorant of the challenges that their people are having on behalf of the team’s shared vision is not only guilty of not building his people to their highest ability, they are stifling the team’s progress. People need to feel that their leaders care about the struggles they have. They will be most successful when leadership not only recognizes their challenges but offers assistance to overcome those challenges.