How CEOs Can Identify the Best Up-and-Coming Leaders

Successful organizations become that way because they have successful leaders. So it’s clear that one of the most important things that companies can do is recognize and nurture employees who show good leadership potential.

To help an organization grow, executives must be skilled in spotting talent and understanding the process of cultivating new leaders. CEOs don’t necessarily need to seek talented leaders outside of the company, since there’s likely to be great potential already on board. Those within the organization have the benefit of already understanding the inner workings of the company and won’t have to adapt to the culture. Leaders promoted from within are typically very loyal to the company, too.

Here, we’ll discuss the top traits of employees with leadership potential and how company executives can help these individuals succeed.

How to Recognize Potential

business employeeOne of the most critical components of developing new leaders is to identify those with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to excel in a role that comes with heavy responsibilities. Performance reviews are a great starting point, but this method really only scratches the surface of an employee’s true potential. To find the most qualified candidates, CEOs usually need to delve deeper.

While executives should obviously identify people who excel at their jobs, it’s also prudent to identify individuals who have work styles that are in line with the company culture and the overall goals of the organization. These employees are typically revered by their peers, are adept learners, and can easily move between collaborating in groups and working alone.

As the person searching for potential new leaders, it’s important to understand that not every talented, well-liked employee is suited to a leadership role. This doesn’t mean they aren’t an asset to the company, but they may lack natural leadership ability or the personality traits necessary to handle a higher degree of responsibility. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that leadership ability has little to do with how much time a person has held a particular position, or what college he or she attended.

Focus on Proactive Individuals

People with good leadership potential excel at recognizing a need or opportunity and subsequently making a plan to address it. Proactive individuals don’t sit around waiting for a problem to crop up, or for someone else to step in when one does. Instead, they will ask how they can assist, regardless of their level within the company, and they’ll lend whatever skills they have without being prompted. Essentially, they will exude an undeniable leadership ability that’s hard to ignore.

Other Traits to Look For

It’s often said that communication is the number-one leadership trait. When speaking, a person with good leadership potential will be able to clearly express him or herself, and explain concepts to colleagues at all levels of the company. He or she is likely direct, but diplomatic in conversations—although not overly so. Observe potential leaders in interpersonal situations to assess their communication abilities. It goes without saying that someone who resorts to yelling to get his or her point across is not a good candidate

speakerDecision-making ability is another important leadership trait to consider. Regardless of his or her current position, the employee likely had to make decisions in the course of his or her work. Were the person’s decisions good ones? Did they produce good outcomes? How does he or she typically arrive at a decision? The answers to these questions will provide a great deal of insight regarding an individual’s leadership potential.

A sense of accountability should also be high on the list when evaluating an employee’s leadership potential. When faced with adversity, it’s important to note how the employee handled it. Good leaders understand that they will often be asked to explain the actions of others while being accountable for whatever part they may have played in the eventual outcome. Accountability is more than just accepting blame when something goes wrong; it’s also about being present and keeping commitments to others.

In addition, a good leader should have a high level of emotional intelligence. This is the ability to recognize other people’s (and one’s own) emotions, and adjust one’s behavior or thought process accordingly. Emotionally intelligent people recognize their own emotions and can harness them to achieve their goals; they are not ruled by their emotions, nor do they suppress them. People with this trait are also excellent listeners and can easily read body language and other forms of unspoken communication. They may also show more empathy towards others.

Develop a Clearly Defined Career Track

Once someone with leadership potential is identified, it’s crucial to develop a plan to advance his or her professional development and overall career within the organization. The leadership development plan should clearly outline the path to growth, the skills needed to get there, and any anticipated challenges.

Once put in place, the plan should be regularly reviewed and modified as needed. Modification should happen on an annual basis, and employees should be comfortable with providing feedback on the process. Everyone involved should be aware of expectations; when this doesn’t happen, employees might begin to feel stagnant in their current position.

Learning to pick out strong leaders is a skill in and of itself, but knowing what to look for can help immensely. Emerging leaders will typically stand out with their can-do attitude, but it’s up to executives to see this innate talent and develop it fully.