One of the most important considerations in succession planning is figuring out how to engage younger generations of employees in opportunities to develop their leadership skills. However, even before this, executives need to identify the employees with the greatest potential for leadership. Executives should invest time into figuring out which employees may develop into excellent leaders, since identifying these individuals early provides more time to ensure that they understand the company’s values before leadership positions become open. Some signs that an employee has strong leadership potential include:
Investment in the future of the company
Not everyone will want to become a leader at the company. Executives need to figure out which employees seem like they are interested in staying at the organization for the long term. Often, these employees will express interest in the company’s goals or other larger goals beyond their immediate scope of work, and become engaged in strategic planning. In addition, these employees will often go above and beyond on projects, especially if they know that it directly relates to the goals of the organization. These individuals have the perspective necessary to become leaders and guide the development of future plans.
Interest in other roles at the organization
Leaders need to have a clear understanding of what everyone at a company actually does. People who try to network with people beyond their immediate teams and departments understand the importance of seeing the company as a whole. These individuals may end up offering unexpected, yet effective solutions to issues because they think beyond what they can personally contribute. Instead, they think in broader terms about what the company’s staff can synergistically accomplish.
Evidence of highly developed emotional intelligence
Success as a leader depends heavily on emotional intelligence. Unfortunately, this isn’t a skill that can be taught easily. For that reason, executives need to pay attention to how their potential leaders communicate and manage their relationships with other employees at the company. People with emotional intelligence are in tune with their emotions, but are not ruled by them. They show respect and empathy for others, and are comfortable expressing their own feelings directly and clearly, without apology. In addition, emotionally intelligent individuals often exhibit an optimistic, yet realistic attitude—they are able to perceive and acknowledge problems, but their focus is on coming up with a strategy to change the situation. In general, emotional intelligence comes with humility, which means these employees are not motivated by power or status.
A fresh perspective on old problems
Innovation is required for any organization to survive in the long run. The best leaders bring in fresh perspectives on the problems at a company by embracing different points of view and being willing to take calculated chances. Employees who can offer ideas that are outside of the box, even if they are not all good, have strong leadership potential. Often, these individuals take initiative to brainstorm and call upon different people to offer up their thoughts without being prompted to do so.
An even, mellow temperament
Leaders often have to deal with people who are angry or upset, from clients to their employees. Individuals who lose their temper in these situations, act passive aggressively, pile blame on others, or try to exact revenge need to learn to maintain their composure. Leaders need to appear collected and in control of their feelings at all times. Of course, this does not mean that leaders are pushovers when it comes to their feelings, or that they never display emotion—it’s more about how they express their emotions. Instead of acting out of anger, they maintain their composure and discuss problems as objectively as possible. This sets the tone for everyone else in the room and can de-escalate a tense situation. Employees who are known for their infectious good moods or those who naturally serve as mediators may have the equanimity required of leaders.
Strong time management skills
Because modern leaders often have to juggle a dozen or more issues at once, good time management is crucial for success. Employees who successfully take on a number of tasks may have the skills necessary for leadership; executives may want to test their abilities by assigning them additional tasks and seeing how they do. How the person handles extra responsibility, from asking for help from colleagues to dropping the ball altogether, will say a lot about his or her leadership potential.
A high degree of resilience
Failure is a part of life and especially part of leadership. What divides some good leaders from great ones is their sense of resilience. When leaders allow failures to get them down, their performance suffers, and the company may be put at risk. However, resilience allows a person to pick back up from where they left off and view a slip as an important learning point. In other words, resilient individuals bounce back with some additional knowledge that may help them avoid the same mistake once again. Executives who are looking for potential leaders should identify individuals who can acknowledge a failure and articulate what they might do differently next time.