As explained in the last blog post in this series, opportunity is a powerful motivator. That makes providing opportunities for people an important part of a leader’s job. It is so important that Albert Einstein said this about the importance of opportunity: “All that is valuable in human society depends on the opportunity for development accorded the individual.”

Grasp that idea for a moment—all that’s most important for each individual connects to the opportunities that he has to grow and develop. Opportunity is life’s primary motivator. So if you’re a leader, your most essential job is to be identifying or creating opportunities for the people and organizations you serve.

Leadership isn’t about the leader; it’s about those being led. And leaders best serve those they are leading when they provide them with growth opportunities. In pursuit of meaningful opportunities to grow and develop, people will move mountains for a leader. It’s a sort of exchange. When you provide people with opportunities to develop, they’ll help you achieve organizational goals. The most meaningful opportunities that a leader can provide for the people she leads are

  • growth and personal development
  • career fulfillment and enrichment
  • acquisition of new skills
  • financial gain and other rewards
  • greater access to leadership roles.

Opportunities are the venues where people can try themselves, test themselves, better themselves, and even find themselves. The leader’s job is to match the opportunity to the

person and to help the person, and the organization, exploit the opportunity for all it’s worth.

Doing this requires attending to these four factors:

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Know your employees. Be knowledgeable about the backgrounds, needs, and desires of your employees. Ask them directly about their career goals and aspirations. What do they want to get out of this job?

Match suitedness. Draw connections between the opportunity and the developmental needs of your employees. When opportunities are identified, ask: “Whose growth and development would the pursuit of this opportunity most advance?”

Envision the desired results. Have a clear picture of the desired benefits that given opportunities present for the employee and the organization. Do some “future-casting” with your employee, thinking through the potential benefits that could be gained if the opportunity is successful. Also, identify the actions that will maximize the probability of success.

Provide ongoing support. Genuinely want, and support, your employee’s success. Stay involved by periodically asking what support they need from you, removing barriers that might block their progress. Offer encouragement and guidance when they meet roadblocks and bottlenecks.

When you really know the aims of your employees, when you’ve assigned them to juicy opportunities that are ripe for their skills, and when you’ve worked with them to develop a clear picture of a successful outcome, you can’t help but take a strong interest in their success. And when your people are successful, you’re an effective leader.