Recognising Future Leaders: A Guide for Identifying High-Potential Employees

High-potential employees exhibit key traits that alert you to their leadership potential. Identify future leaders amongst your employees with this guide.

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Leadership is a skill that you can nurture. But it’s also a talent that you can recognise in your employees. If you can spot the attributes of a good leader, you can nurture these and ensure that your employees fulfil their full potential. Nurturing leadership talent is a valuable investment for your company.

Not only are you grooming future leaders for your business, but you’re also encouraging employees to be proactive and take greater initiative in their current roles. That’s a win-win!

What You Need to Look For to Spot an Employee With Leadership Potential

Leadership qualities differ depending on the nature of your company and the capabilities required of each leadership role; nevertheless, there are several key traits associated with effective leaders.

These are traits you should seek to identify in high-potential employees:

1. Job Talent

Future leaders are highly motivated individuals who are deeply engaged in their work and effectively self-manage within their current roles. You can identify leadership potential by taking note of which employees are currently seeking to drive the most value through their work without the expectations of leadership.

These individuals will be eager to go beyond what is simply required of them, in the best interests of the business. They also demonstrate a strong sense of initiative and take interest in different aspects of the company, beyond their specific role or department.

When you have identified these kinds of individuals amongst your team, see how they react to new responsibilities and opportunities. This will allow you to evaluate whether they are capable of high performance beyond their current role.

2. Soft Skills

Leaders are required to manage and motivate teams of individuals and ensure peace and cohesion in the workplace. This requires a number of vital soft skills.

First and foremost are excellent communication skills. Leaders are required to effectively communicate their expectations to each member of the team, and articulate a clear vision for projects, targets, and day-to-day operations.

Good communication is imperative, as communication barriers have been associated with added stress, delay or failure to complete projects, and low morale in the workplace, amongst other issues.

You can identify a good communicator in someone who is both articulate and an active listener. An individual who is receptive to what others have to say will be the best communicator, as they recognise that dialogue is a two-way street. The most effective communication is considerate of the vantage point of other parties, fostering an open dialogue where constructive feedback is welcome. This will promote trust and cohesion in the workplace.

A high-potential employee also demonstrates a high degree of professionalism and ethics. They practise accountability and own up to their mistakes, approach their colleagues with respect and empathy, and always strive to be a good team player. These individuals will possess a great deal of self-awareness, enabling them to draw on the right soft skills to effectively deal with others.

3. Attitude to Company Culture, Stress and Pressure

If a problem or challenge arises at your company, take note of who steps forward to offer creative solutions. These are your high-potential employees who have problem-solving mindsets. They remain level-headed when faced with adversity and tend to be very adaptable individuals.

These employees demonstrate good stress management; they are highly organised, efficient and adept at time management. They are comfortable with multitasking and handling large responsibilities, while consistently delivering an excellent standard of work.

These individuals also have a healthy relationship with failure. They view setbacks as teachable moments; hence, they are more comfortable taking accountability and addressing areas of improvement. This allows them to maintain perspective even under high pressure and prioritise growth.

4. Aptitude for Leadership

Individuals may exhibit leadership potential in different ways; thus, you must learn to identify leadership potential in different types of people. While a record of high performance is a good indicator for future leadership success, it is important to remember that you are looking for potential, and not necessarily a history of proven success.

Overlooking this might mean that you fail to nurture good candidates who have not had the opportunity to demonstrate the same initiative. These candidates may have valuable ideas and suggestions that they are waiting to contribute.

One way to measure aptitude is through specific leadership potential assessments. There are a host of different assessments available online, but first you must decide which qualities you would like to measure and identify.

5. Interpersonal Relationships

Leaders must have high emotional intelligence in order to best manage and motivate their team. This trait is easily identifiable prior to testing an individual within a leadership role. Observe who the mediators in your team are and who is skilled at conflict resolution. Employees who are quick to give credit to their colleagues, and happily offer up praise and words of encouragement, make good leaders who will foster productivity in the workplace.

You can set up an interview with members of your team to find out who truly stands out in this regard. Ask non-leading questions about who has the most desirable interpersonal skills in the workplace, and see whose name pops up often.

6. Collaborative Capabilities

A high-potential employee is a team player. They are eager to lend a helping hand to their colleagues to ensure the success of the entire team.

If you suspect that an employee is a future leader, place them in charge of a specific project if the opportunity arises. They should know how to delegate tasks, and avoid the temptation to micromanage, thereby instilling confidence in the rest of their team. They should also know when to seek support when necessary. This shows that they are willing to learn and want to act in the best interest of the company, instead of being insecure or too arrogant to seek help.

7. Willingness to Learn

Identify employees who are eager to learn new skills and volunteer to take on new responsibilities. Future leaders are open-minded and are likely to seize any opportunity that will lead to their professional development. This includes everything from taking a first aid course or attending other workplace related training to going to seminars or speeches, and networking with potential mentors.

How Mentoring Can Help High-Potential Employees

Mentorship is a highly effective path for career development and nurturing managerial potential. A future leader will happily humble themselves before a knowledgeable figure in order to learn the know-how of their desired role, gain access to new networks and opportunities, and undertake necessary training.

A mentor will equip their mentee with valuable insights, realistic goals and coping mechanisms, enabling them to pursue upwards mobility within their desired career path.

So, there you have it. Your employees are your biggest assets and when you recognise their potential you facilitate growth. Not just for the employee, but for your business too.

This article was guest written by Donna L. Jefferson.

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