Human Resources Leadership

Developing leaders within a team

how to develop leaders

When your team grows, it’s typically a good sign. It means that there is a demand from the business, the project itself is getting bigger and it’s probably because the pace needs to be faster. It’s also a great opportunity for you as a leader or manager, because it gives you a chance to improve your skills.

It all seems like a positive change, but there is the other side of the coin.

Reasons why you should develop leaders

More people on a team also means more meetings, more coordinating and more problems, like communication issues. And as a leader you are right in the middle of it. When your team grows, it becomes geometrically more complex in terms of communication. This theory is actually supported by a famous network communication concept called Metcalfe’s law.

This concept is a mathematical justification for a potential number of contacts. And it applies not only to telephone connections but also to people working within the same team. As your team grows, the number of potential interpersonal connections grows, too. It is super easy to lose ground when that happens. 

It’s not only a problem for leaders but also for all teammates. As the team’s size increases, people progressively underestimate the number of labor hours required to complete projects [1]. It’s called “the team scaling fallacy”. Researchers asked two-person teams and four-person teams to assemble the same Lego structure. Two-person teams took on average 36 minutes to finish it, while four-person teams took a whopping 52-minute period in order to complete the task. But let’s get back to the leader itself.

More people, more troubles

Chances are high that as a leader you will have less time to give everyone enough attention, feedback, support or coaching. After a while, it can result in overall resentment and weak personal bonds between you and your other teammates. Breaking promises, forgetting about important meetings, postponing one-to-ones, not listening to team’s problems, not paying enough attention to people’s development plans. These are the typical problems of a busy leader or manager. In the end, those issues will kill the team spirit. 

“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”

But there is a solution to that problem. You need people around you who can help you do your job better. People who will take over a few of your responsibilities. Simply speaking, you need to develop leaders. It is not only useful from your perspective, but it’s also beneficial for the whole organization. It’s crucial to have strong leaders around you. Those who are responsible and can contribute to the development of an organization. The sooner you start to develop future leaders, the quicker you will be able to see results. But it’s not easy. The first step is to share responsibilities.

Get rid of a desire for direct control

This can be a difficult step. Many leaders and managers are scared of relinquishing control. There are many possible reasons for such a behavior. It can be the lack of trust, a need for control or the fear of losing power. If you feel like “no one can do it as well as me” or “people are likely to let me down”, I’ve got bad news for you. 

It’s the first step to sabotaging delegation culture and towards micromanagement. And according to research [2], even though there are short-term benefits of that kind of management style, in the long run its costs can be exorbitant. Micromanagement lowers the morale of teammates, reduces productivity and increases staff turnover.

There is no better way to coordinate big teams than to delegate some of your tasks to its members. If you’re a leader the best thing you can do is to give up some control and let new leaders emerge. It’s your responsibility to make sure people keep improving their skills and growing. I just like Jack Welch said:

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

I think it summarizes perfectly what should be the point of view of a true leader. In the end, it’s impossible to increase the number of hours in the day, but it’s possible to share some of the responsibilities in order to save a few hours a day.

Leaders are already on your team

If your team is growing, you’ve got at least a couple of options. For instance, you can split it into smaller groups or promote leaders or do both. But in general it’s about looking for help, fast! I suggest you start by looking for leaders that are already on your team.

There are lots of advantages to such a move. Those people already know the product/project, organizational culture and expectations. It also positively affects the company itself, because it shows opportunities. It shows that it’s possible for employees to be recognized and get promoted. That can increase trust and build a positive attitude towards the company. And, most importantly, you are able to promote teammates internally much faster than if you were to do it from the outside.

However, you should be aware that in some cases such a choice can be dangerous. I can imagine a team in which every person has an already established position and no one is willing to challenge the status quo. Or there is one despotic person with really strong opinions. In that case it might be better to bring in someone new from the outside in order to clear the air, challenge current problems and implement new and healthy practices. 

Coach & develop 

Nothing happens automatically. You need to work hard to coach and develop future leaders. According to the Gallup report [3], only 1 in 10 people have the talent to effectively manage others. They are able to naturally engage team members and customers, retain top performers and sustain the culture of high productivity.

Another 2 in 10 have functioning managerial talent, meaning that they can function at a high level if their company invests in coaching and developmental plans for them.

leadership skills

You see that managerial and coordination skills are quite rare on the market. If you want to have great leaders, invest some time in improving leadership skills. Share with them the best practices that you’ve learned so far, for example how to motivate others, become more assertive, facilitate discussions and build relationships with teammates.

As a leader who creates new leaders you should offer a helping hand from day one. You can set up regular one-to-ones, listen to people’s challenges and help them find the best solutions.  But don’t let one-on-ones be status updates. They should rather work as consultations to find a common language and solve current problems instead of commanding and controlling meetups. 

One-to-ones at a higher level

Keep in mind that these one-to-ones should only be conducted with new leaders. At the same time, you should skip direct one-to-ones with each teammate and ask new leaders to facilitate them. That will let you save some time and it’s a great opportunity for new leaders to develop their skills. It’s a win-win situation. 

skip direct one-to-one

If you don’t skip direct one-to-ones with all teammates, you can easily become an impediment on your team. You won’t be able to pay enough attention to all people and they’ll realize it right away. Even though your intentions can be fair, people don’t like to be neglected. That’s why it’s better to delegate such a task. 


If you’re already overwhelmed by the amount of work you do and the number of people whose work you need to coordinate, you should consider looking for more leaders. It’s your responsibility to identify and coach potential future leaders, because in the end, it’s all about performance and efficiency.

There is no better way to scale up your time than to delegate a few of your responsibilities. 

After you reduce the number of people you need to supervise, you’ll have more quality time for your other duties. This way you will also lower the risk of having frustrated and unsupported teammates. 


[1] Staats, Bradley & Milkman, Katherine & Fox, Craig. (2012). The team scaling fallacy: Underestimating the declining efficiency of larger teams. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 118. 10.1016/j.obhdp.2012.03.002.

[2] Collins, Sandra & Hou, Niki. (2002). Micromanagement–a costly management style. Radiology management. 24. 32-5.

[3] Gallup, Inc. (2015). State of the American Manager. Analytics and Advice For Leaders.