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Effective Leadership: Coaching up Future Leaders

Sep 11, 2023
Unlock leadership potential: Learn how effective coaching empowers future leaders with Mark Cannon at Vanderbilt Business.

By Arial Starks

Pitcuted: Mark Cannon. Cannon is teaching 2 of the fall 2023 short programs for Vanderbilt Business Executive Education.

Mark Cannon

Once a leader reaches an executive level of management, the focus of their job becomes less task-oriented and leans more towards how they can delegate responsibilities and coach up a team to become future leaders as well. Before learning to coach others, it is vital for executive leaders to learn to maintain effective leadership in a current and evolving environment. Mark Cannon, Vanderbilt Business Associate Professor of Management, shares insight into effective leadership and how you can become an even more impactful leader.

How can a good leader possess effective leadership?

A key component to successful leadership across any industry involves being able to balance the present and future goals for a cross-functional team. Leaders need to be able to plan for the future while simultaneously managing what is happening amongst their team in the present. Cannon says a good leader displays effective leadership by being prepared for any possible outcome and being confident in their decision-making.

“Leaders who are effective are versatile and can quickly assess situations, understand what matters in the situation, decide what are the priorities, and then choose from a variety of possible different courses of action what will be most effective for that particular situation, rather than reacting reflexively,” Cannon said.

He adds that the ability to coach and help develop others is a quality that many seek from leadership. 

“The idea of coaching and generally developing people is very motivational,” Cannon said. “If you think about attracting people and retaining people, the prospect that they will be developed well and that you have the capacity and interest in doing that as a leader is a very appealing capability.”

What skills do effective leaders possess? 

The ability to motivate and develop others is one of the most important skills to possess as a leader. When determining how to motivate a team, it is also important to self-reflect as the leader to figure out what your own strengths and weaknesses are. Cannon says one of the most challenging things for leaders to master is delivering feedback and how to best engage with different personality types and generations of workers.

Coaching the Next Generation

“For example, younger workers like Gen Z have indicated that the amount of feedback they would like in the workplace is about twice as much as what previous generations wanted. They want to be able to feel good about themselves, and they want to feel that their work is meaningful. So, helping them make connections about ‘why does it matter’ is vital in learning what motivates them.”

Cannon adds that a great way to coach younger generations of workers is by understanding their strengths to help them build upon what they are skilled at and reinforcing the positives in the work they are doing well. 

“You can turn some of their desire to be engaged into their own responsibility to take initiative, rather than having to anticipate all things yourself as a leader, ” Cannon says. “You can create a process that is a good balance.”

How to measure effective leadership 

While it is important to possess the qualities and skills of a good leader, it is also important to remember good leadership can be subjective to who is being led. While you can’t always ensure you are being viewed as favorable, you can measure how effective your leadership is by the impact you are leaving on your team. Cannon points to some key qualities of an impactful leader: someone who is driving performance and who can determine whether you are getting stronger as a team. 

“As the leader you want to ask yourself, are we building capacity rather than just burning out, i.e. people are here for today, but they may leave because their needs are not being met and/or the work is not being accomplished in an efficient way,” Cannon said.

As the leader, he adds that you have to learn to balance high performance and building for the future. “Set the expectation that every time your team accomplishes something, ‘we’re going to be better at it the next time’,” Cannon said. “Another thing that is often overlooked is taking time to reflect on what it is that we are learning as a team and how that affects our future approach.” 

Once you can take the time to learn to help people think better for themselves, take more initiative, and become better at self-managing, you can have confidence that you are on the right track for effective and impactful leadership. 

To learn more about how Vanderbilt Business Executive Education can help you reach your potential as a leader, click here.

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