How to develop a team of leaders

Organisations are best served if they are focused on developing a team of leaders, all pulling in the same direction for one common goal. This is the secret sauce of almost any successful organisation.

The success my team at Virgin Mobile Canada has shared over the years is proof alone that strong company leadership comes not from any one individual, but the collective. If you’re looking to develop a team of leaders of your own, here are a few lessons I’ve learned throughout my career:

Surround yourself with the right people

Admittedly, this has been the easiest part. After all, the Virgin brand has always attracted a certain type of person - self-starters who are passionately committed to creating incredible Member experiences and using the business as a force for good. Building your team with the right people is important. You need to look for people who don’t just fill the job requirements, but have the necessary street smarts and soft skills that often can’t be taught but are needed for when they lead a team of their own one day. You also want employees who buy into your business’ values and embrace what you’re trying to build. Nobody gets far without having a passion for what they do.

Give people autonomy

Once you get the right people in the door, you need to give them the space to do their job effectively. I always try to give everyone I work with the autonomy to make decisions based on their expertise and experience. This is the first step in empowering employees to become leaders. While you should provide general directions on where to go, you have to trust that your team members can figure out how to get there. And you need to let them take their own route, even if it involves some off-roading. You can’t micro-manage someone into becoming a leader. You have to give your team the freedom to have their own ideas, and when necessary, help remove any barriers that are in their way.

Don’t let employees be afraid to fail

Leadership is like playing a sport, and those lessons in teamwork we learned as kids are every bit as applicable now as they were then. Whether you win or lose, you always have to have your employees’ backs. As a leader, you need to create a culture where people know it is okay to fail. Otherwise, they'll never take the risks necessary to move your business forward and advance their careers.  

One of my favourite quotes comes from Winston Churchill, who once said, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." It is a sentiment echoed by Sir Richard Branson throughout his career. He believes that people cannot let the fear of failure become an obstacle because every failure is an opportunity to learn, and if you’re not failing, you’re not growing or pushing yourself to achieve the best.

Create an open environment of continuous learning

At Virgin Mobile Canada, we do our best to remove hierarchy across the organisation, taking the open-door policy a step further by never actually installing office doors in the first place.

I believe a big part of leadership is staying humble and keeping the floor open to new ideas. You need to be constantly communicating with employees and looking to learn from anyone and everyone. A good idea can come from anywhere, so if you’re not drawing on the collective brain power and life experiences of your team, you’re doing your business a great disservice.

I’m proud to say I draw daily inspiration from every individual on my team. The smartest move I ever made as a leader was to develop more leaders. So, take it from me - if you hire the right people and give them a true voice to be empowered to make decisions and not be afraid to fail, you will position your company - and yourself ­ for unprecedented success.

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