Human Capital Management, Leadership

Fearless Development

/ May 24, 2019 May 24, 2019

Ask almost any leader within an organization, and they will tell you that one of their key focus areas is the recruitment and development of talent.  In fact, 30% of CEOs surveyed by the Predictive Index in 2018 noted that Talent was their single biggest priority going into the current fiscal year.  And it makes perfect sense that employee-related costs on average represent 55% of total expenses, with 22% of companies spending over 75% of their budget on their people![i]

So how can you, as a leader in your organization, attend to the learning needs of your growing team?  There are many potential avenues- seminars, online learning, full-organization training sessions- but few are as impactful as the one-on-one development of a leader working directly to grow his or her direct report.  Strong leaders not only teach their teams currently needed skills, but also guide them to learn the attributes that will allow them to thrive at the next level in their career.  Moreover, the best leaders not only teach those skills, but also give their teams the opportunities to put them in place and practice through authentic tasks.

Too often, however, leaders fall into the trap of continuing to attend to the tasks that naturally support their rise to their role because this is where they receive their greatest satisfaction, recognition, or both.  Unfortunately, for their teams, leaders that hold onto these tasks can potentially stymie the growth of their people by withholding those same opportunities that allowed themselves to thrive!  More directly put, leaders that prioritize the development of their teams must be fearless enough to give their team members ownership over critical actions that they themselves would often hold onto.

Developing a strong team requires a leader to act with enough bravery to delegate, despite potential trepidation, and to act with enough humility to allow the team members to receive the recognition for the successes earned.  Through this fearless development of your team members, a leader can dramatically impact the results of the organization.  This development requires three key focuses:


Develop to Own

The best results for your team will ALWAYS come when team members feel direct, personal ownership of their work.  But it is impossible to ask an individual to feel ownership if they are not given the opportunity to own.  When a leader simply gives a member of your team a task to achieve, you merely create a highly efficient machine to accomplish actions- a machine that caps the organizational talent available and withholds the opportunity for creative solutions to reach key decision makers.

When leaders are unafraid to hand over the reins of critical processes and actions, they create a mindset in their teams where individuals truly feeling like business owners, responsible for solving issues. Leaders who empower their teams to tackle tasks, even if it is not guaranteed that they will succeed the first time, create an organizational trust that will last long beyond any one single task. Fearlessly give over that responsibility to your developing team, and their enhanced ownership will drive the outcomes the organization requires to grow!


Develop to Accelerate

Fearless development of your team enables rapid, nimble decision-making, the lifeblood of a growing organization.  According to a 2019 survey of over 1,200 executives[ii], leaders felt like 61% of their decision making time was ineffective. Yet those organizations who were making effective decisions were 7x more likely to be delegating those decisions to the right level- meaning that to be decisive, impactful decisions are made when they are trusted to the right team members.

Too often, crucial decisions are left to the people furthest from the client.  This can lead to decreases in satisfaction- both from the person purchasing AND the person producing the product.  By developing your team members to the point where they are empowered to make critical decisions in crucial moments, you enable the needs of your clients to be served with speed- in a way that you can trust.


Develop to Retain

Most often, the hindrance to employee development is time- time to learn, time to practice, and time to step back from the non-essential tasks that often consume a day[iii].  Yet, by not prioritizing this, leaders run the risk of creating bored employees.  Harvard Business Review in 2018 shared that bored employees are twice as likely to leave, and nearly half of those are leaving due to a lack of new skill development or being tasked with unchallenging work.[iv]

Leaders must find ways to engage their teams in great opportunities to learn, develop, and attempt new skills, or they will lose their blooming top performers.  Giving thriving employees new challenges, be it inside their current scope of capabilities or outside their comfort zone, is a dramatically impactful way to develop a new set of skills that empower their- and your organization’s- success.

And when the work is over and the day is won, it is critical that the leader takes a step back and allows the spotlight to shine on the blooming members of the team who stretched themselves for this assignment.  These accolades solidify the learning and provide crucial visibility to a thriving employee.  By developing & celebrating the growth of your team, you further ensure that these key members of your organization remain a part of the team for a longer time.


Every leader worries about talent- be the leader that is so focused on the development of your team that you fearlessly and enthusiastically give your people every opportunity to grow.  When you do this, you’ll find that your organization’s- and your own- success will bloom directly with that of your team!



  • Daniel G. Bell is the Director of Human Capital Consulting for Exude, Inc. in Philadelphia, PA.


[i] The Predictive Index- “Top CEO priorities in 2019

[ii] MCKinsey Quarterly- “Good decisions don’t have to be slow ones

[iii] Josh Bersin- “2019 LinkedIn Learning Report

[iv] Rebecca Zucker- “Why the Best Internal Candidate Might Be from an Unlikely Part of the Company