Cultivating Leaders Within: The Key To Business Adaptation

February 21, 2024 4 min read

As a company expands, launching various business sectors or establishing branches in different regions, it starts encountering difficulties in cultivating more leaders. This issue has been around for as long as modern corporations have existed. Here, I’ll share my thoughts on how to grow leaders within, based on my 12 years of experience as a founder and CEO of a tech company that has more than 800 team members worldwide.

Is Leadership In Our Genes?

The question of whether leaders are born or made always sparks debates. Let’s first define what set of traits we call leadership. Warren Bennis, the author of On Becoming a Leader, highlights several characteristics common to leaders: “a guiding vision, passion that provides hope and inspires others, integrity (which encompasses candor, maturity and self-knowledge), curiosity, and the willingness to take risks.”

Let’s see whether these traits are innate or acquired throughout life. Fortunately, there are numerous studies on this topic to lean on.

In studies conducted over the past decade that are still widely cited today, scientists have relied heavily on the statistical analysis of differences between pairs of twins to estimate the degree to which “leadership” correlates with genetic factors or life circumstances. The results show that the genetic component of taking on a leadership role is 30%, whereas the environmental influence is estimated at 70%. Other research in molecular genetics again involving twins estimated “the heritability of leadership role occupancy at only 24%.”

So, in general, leadership isn’t what we’re born with. Leaders—and especially outstanding leaders—grow over time through hard work and life experience.

However, depending on the leadership qualities and effort applied, one can get a leader of different scales: a soccer team captain, a company manager or a country president. If we look at this through the lens of business goals, the task of the company is to recognize leadership traits in team members and create conditions under which this set of qualities unfolds naturally.

Create A Space For Rational Risk

My recipe: Create an environment within the company in which employees who have only recently taken on a leadership position or are striving for it have the opportunity to make mistakes. To facilitate this, establish clear KPIs that measure intermediate stages of project implementation, allowing leaders to learn from errors and adjust their approach accordingly.

Regular meetings should be held to review these KPIs, discuss progress and address any challenges. This will allow you to quickly halt a project if necessary to avoid significant losses. In such a system, team members can propose new approaches and strive for different results so the business doesn’t suffer.

Here are a few practical steps to support the development of leaders from within.

• Create an atmosphere in which initiatives and new ideas are welcomed and encouraged. This motivates employees to be more active and propose fresh projects.

• Cultivate leaders within the company by implementing a robust mentorship program that pairs less experienced employees with seasoned leaders to foster skill development.

• Provide regular opportunities for advancement and professional growth, such as workshops, seminars and projects that challenge and expand teammates’ current skill sets.

• Hire from your “alumni.” Invite former employees who have gained new experience in other companies to return to your team in new positions, enriching your corporate culture with fresh views and approaches.


Hire From Outside Or Grow Within?

This choice hinges on the company’s growth rate and current business tasks. Growing a leader from within may be preferable because they’ve already proven themselves. Sometimes, there’s an opportunity to invest in the future, preparing an employee to become a leader gradually, but other times, it’s necessary to solve a current problem quickly. In the latter case, companies might need to hire a manager from outside.

However, hiring a new person has its risks. For instance, they may not fit into the corporate culture. I believe being a successful leader is a combination of being in the right place at the right time and having the knowledge and experience needed. Sometimes, all the pieces of the puzzle match, but other times, you have to say goodbye to the manager after one or two reporting periods.

Balancing Leaders And Integrators

Tracking the number of leaders “grown” within the company can be useful for understanding trends and statistics, but it isn’t an end in itself. The balance between leaders and integrators in the team is important. Leaders are visionaries—they set the direction of movement and coordinate. However, if the number of leaders is too high, there’s a risk of creating a “company of visionaries,” which can lead to inconsistency of actions.

Should We Always Keep Leaders In The Team?

Now, the question of the economic feasibility of investing in growing leaders within the company becomes relevant. An aphorism comes to mind: If you invest in people, you may risk losing them, but if you don’t invest in the team, you may lose the business.

At Innovecs, we believe that investing in people is investing in business. Of course, retaining newly minted leaders is one of our priorities. For this, we use two main approaches: First, we motivate the team with interesting tasks and challenges. Second, we offer a competitive financial component, which includes short-term and long-term motivation. For top-tier leaders, financial rewards are tied to the financial indicators of the entire company.

But it’s important to remember that if employees have outgrown business tasks, they’ll leave anyway. This is a natural process: Staff turnover can positively affect the company, people and market as a whole. There should always be a certain outflow of people at an optimal level in an organization. It shows that the business is evolving. Thus, growing leaders within the company isn’t just a task—it’s a strategy that helps us move forward and develop.


This column was previously published on

Alex Lutskiy
Founder and CEO of Innovecs
Don't See Your Dream Job?