Each year, The Nolan Company conducts industry surveys to gauge the pulse of a specific industry, be it banking, healthcare, or insurance. Some are comprehensive, others are just flash surveys. Nolan uses these surveys to gain insight into what topics are hot, where people are spending their time, and what challenges face the industry.

Last fall, I had an opportunity to sit down with a few of our client CEOs to get their perspective on what keeps them up at night and where they are focusing their energy. Some of the feedback was surprising. It was not the day-to-day operational issues or market forces or financial challenges you might think would top their worry list. People were number one. Their primary concerns were topics like staff development, the needs of up-and-coming leaders, whether their people were challenged enough, and employee satisfaction.

These leaders left day-to-day operating issues in the capable hands of the front lines. They told me stepping back and observing their team in action—their decision making, their ability to operate on their own, and their skill at developing and challenging others—gave insight into how these leaders themselves had developed their direct reports. Being patient and allowing decisions to be different than their own was sometimes difficult, but by engaging with the team and coaching during the process, they helped the next generation grow.

It is fascinating to watch a management team operate. It takes patience and a careful mix of guidance, direction, and stepping back. Incorporating all three of these leadership skills in your own style strengthens your company. More important, it helps to develop the next group of leaders. Today’s business world needs new leaders who are on their way up. They will not come from a seminar or leadership course. They will be developed on the front lines by making decisions and being accountable for those decisions—by building teamwork and using the skills of their direct reports to get things done.  Perhaps the most difficult of all leadership skills— and the one with the most lasting benefits—is stepping back.