Successful leaders know that people development is a critical aspect of their role, allowing them to foster a culture of improvement, engagement and growth within teams. In an effort to drive innovation and higher performance, nurturing the abilities that make great leaders means providing a springboard to help people to step up when needed.
With this in mind, here are our tips for how to identify future leaders, as well as some key strategies for developing leaders in the workplace and enabling them to reach their full potential.
How to Spot a Future Leader
Developing skills for a future leadership role starts with specific initiatives that are focused around the people who will benefit from them the most. But how do you identify those in your organisation with the capacity to succeed? There are several key leadership qualities to look out for, including:
A Collaborative Mindset
One of the most important skills for future leaders to have, is the ability to encourage teamwork and buy-in from the rest of the employees. They don’t just take control from afar, but actively drive collaboration by working well within the team. When identifying future leaders, look for people who cooperate effectively to achieve a positive outcome and bring out the best in others.
Strong Communication and Interpersonal Abilities
Leaders need to connect with people across all levels of the organisation, from individuals in a department through to senior managers and stakeholders. It’s essential that they are natural mediators centred on building relationships and interacting diplomatically, especially in challenging situations. Consequently, a flexible communication style that adapts to various circumstances and people is one of the most valuable leadership skills to have. To spot a potential leader, pay attention to how they communicate with team members and external vendors, as well as in meetings. Are they the person people go to for help or advice? How do others respond to their communication style?
Initiative and the Ability to Work Autonomously
Before you begin leadership development, take note of people who are proactive in their approach to work. Those who tackle issues head on often make great leaders. They are confident enough to work autonomously with little supervision and take ownership of tasks assigned to them. Accountability is an important characteristic to keep an eye out for.
Excellent Time Management Skills
Leaders are swarmed with daily responsibilities that keep their schedules overloaded and are often charged with juggling multiple projects simultaneously. Effective managers utilise their time management expertise to maximise opportunities and accomplish their objectives. Employees who can multitask, prioritise work and who manage their time well are worth considering for leadership development. They may also have demonstrated strategies to deal with stress in high-pressured environments.
Ways to Develop Future Leaders
Actively developing skills for future leadership is one of the most important steps for future proofing your organisation. Once you have identified the people who possess the right characteristics, here are some strategies to help nurture and cultivate them:
Widen their Scope and Responsibilities
Good leaders have a thorough appreciation of all areas of a business, not just their own department. Encourage a broader understanding of not only the company but the industry as a whole, as well as how the organisation can fit into future markets. The best way for high potential employees to learn is through gaining hands-on experience by taking on greater authority and challenging assignments. Keep in mind the importance of allowing them to make mistakes, as failures offer valuable lessons that add new skills and help them avoid making the same errors in the future.
Provide Training and Mentorship
Aspiring leaders can benefit significantly from the knowledge, guidance and experience of seasoned veterans. Appoint mentors who can offer relevant advice for future leaders and who are readily available to guide them in the learning process. It’s key that they are not a direct manager of the employee, as the relationship needs to be one of trust and confidence. Retired executives, current business leaders or external professionals are some possible choices.
Keep them Motivated
You’ve ascertained how to identify future leaders and groomed the right person for the role. However, there is no suitable position available. There will be times when the staff you have mentored are ready to move up but are faced with limited opportunities. Leadership positions can be rare, so it’s important to keep them motivated and engaged or you may risk losing them. Where possible, it’s worthwhile considering an internal transfer or secondment position where they can utilise some their new skills. Working on a special project or coaching other team members are also good alternatives until a leadership role becomes available.
Above all, let your future leader know how they are performing and offer praise and critique to guide them along their journey. Feedback is not only motivating but will also diagnose any issues earlier on.
Developing leaders in the workplace is an essential part of succession planning for any organisation. Companies that don’t engender a culture of leadership growth from within stand the risk of being at a serious disadvantage in the competitive market place. They must actively identify future leaders and galvanise strategies such as those discussed here to nurture and develop that potential. This is what separates truly great businesses from all the rest.
What are some of the ways your organisation develops its future leaders? We’d love to hear from you.