It may come as a surprise, but your company’s next extraordinary leader is probably already right there in your building. It’s true, the most successful brands are those that cultivate leadership from within. Why? Because current employees with leadership potential are already familiar with your organization’s chain of command, processes, software and systems. They’ve already proved they are a good fit for the company culture, and they likely already know the organization’s strengths and weaknesses (and may even have ideas about how to address these areas of opportunity).
Onboarding a current employee is also faster and easier than bringing in a new hire. And promoting from within gives incentive for other employees to work hard and climb the ranks. But just because someone has leadership qualities doesn’t mean they’ll recognize these qualities in themselves, or find their way to the front of the pack. That’s why organizations need a leadership continuity plan that pays particular attention to developing leadership skills in employees who show potential.
Here are five workplace trends you can utilize to foster your budding leaders.
1. Observe Your Staff Closely
Before you can nurture potential leaders, you must first be able to recognize who they are. Don’t just look at performance, look for potential. Yes, performance is an important part of leadership. After all, a leader must be competent and knowledgeable. But not all top performers are cut out for leadership roles, which means performance cannot be the only touchstone.
Look for someone with an outstanding level of motivation and perseverance. Someone who doesn’t give up easily, strives for improvement and has an aptitude for teaching others. Seek out people with high emotional intelligence - that is, employee who are able to control their emotions, and respond to the emotions of employees. People with empathy, and those whom others trust and seek out for advice.
2. Compare Candidates with Company Values
Leaders will be highly engaged in the organization. Their actions are nearly always in the best interest of the company, and typically align with the company’s mission statement - because they truly believe in its value. Furthermore, potential leaders engage well with their co-workers. They connect easily and willingly with others, and they don’t just measure their victories in personal gain, but also in the company’s overall stride.
3. Make Potential Leaders Prove Themselves
There are two basic types of employees: those who prefer to do only as they’re told and those who take matters in their own hands. The former waits for orders before making a move while the latter inspires action. Take notice of which employees regularly go beyond their job responsibilities or are quick to offer insight on an issue.
Provide them with an impromptu challenge on a tight deadline and observe how they react and deliver on the target. Because leaders must be able to spring into action without notice, an action-oriented individual who performs well under pressure and is capable of making quick, calculated decisions makes for a promising leader.
4. Sharpen Their Juggling Skills
From project management to client services, internal communication to employee development, leaders must be capable of juggling many different tasks at once. Groom your potential leaders by adding more responsibility to their workload. Give them tasks that push them beyond their comfort zone and force them to learn new skills.
Those who absorb new and challenging responsibilities without serious struggle are natural self-starters, characteristic that can neither be taught nor absent in leadership.
5. Hone Their Communication Skills
To be an effective leader, individuals must be exceptional communicators. But remember, communication is a two-way channel. Teach leadership candidates about active listening. In addition to clearly and concisely conveying information to groups and individuals, potential leaders must also prove their ability to listen and reiterate information. This can be honed by assigning presentations that include both specific instructions and room for creative interpretation.
Once you’ve identified your potential leaders, and prepared them for the challenges of management, you must be able to identify when they’re ready to definitively move into a leadership role. This is an important part of your leadership continuity strategy because failure to recognize when your rising talent is ready for the real deal could push them to seek a leadership opportunity with another company. When your leader-in-training is brave enough to push some boundaries, but wise enough to do so without disrupting the flow of business, they are likely ready for the next step. Look for a leadership candidate who proves they are self-aware, a good judge of timing, and competent with a dash of gumption. This is an ideal combination of qualities that will make for effective management.
Looking for more advice to help you plan for the next step? Check out our infographic The Workplace of the Future!