One of the major responsibilities of a business leader is identifying future leaders. Through this process, individuals can take future leaders under their wings and shape them into effective and thoughtful professionals.
Ultimately, each business leader must develop his or her own criteria for identifying employees with the most potential. However, some themes often emerge when talking to current leaders about their criteria. Some of the most commonly used identifiers of future leaders include:
A willingness to learn.
Future leaders will seek out opportunities to learn, whether through formal programs or from their peers. These individuals engage with opportunities in a meaningful way and bring value to the whole process. Too often, people contribute to conversations for the sake of saying something and looking engaged rather than to add something of value. Those who consistently provide interesting comments and engage thoroughly with points of view different from their own have true potential as future leaders.
A high level of influence.
Even before becoming leaders in a formal sense, those with leadership potential will stand out because of the influence they have over others. In the workplace, future leaders are those colleagues identify as go-to people for insight, guidance, or help.
These individuals have already established the level of trust from their peers that is necessary for excellent leadership. Networking remains a key marker of success, and these influencers understand what it means to build and maintain a strong network.
An ability to adapt.
Many leaders struggle with change, yet the ability to adapt is fundamental to excellent leadership. Future leaders will show a degree of adaptability while in their current roles. Additionally, when something goes wrong, the people who step up to get everything back on track are naturally inclined to leadership positions.
Adaptability also applies to the ability to fill different positions. Because leaders must be masters of numerous realms, individuals who have succeeded in different types of positions at a company are also strong candidates for future leaders.
A talent for delivering feedback.
Future leaders will have insight into the projects they are involved with and what might make them better. Leaders need to maintain a critical eye and, even more importantly, translate that criticism to constructive feedback that inspires those around them to work even harder.
This feedback does not need to occur in a formal setting. Leaders should look for people who take initiative to offer constructive criticism for the projects they are involved with, even if they are not yet in a formal leadership role. This initiative demonstrates a commitment to doing things better for the sake of the company and its mission.
An aptitude for matchmaking.
Business leaders need to understand the individual strengths and weaknesses of their employees in order to set them up for success. Future leaders demonstrate aptitude for this skill by connecting employees who could potentially help each other.
This sort of matchmaking can boost collaboration and increase the overall synergy at a company. The resulting environment can inspire high levels of achievement in addition to opening the door for unique innovations in the company’s products and services.
A strong set of values.
People who change opinions without good reason lose the trust of individuals around them. For that reason, these individuals tend not to make great leaders. The most motivational business leaders are those who take a strong moral stance and base all of their decisions around those values. These business leaders are able to rally people to their cause more easily and their actions tend to look more consistent. Individuals want business leaders they can trust to act according to what they think is important.
A record of high performance.
Business leaders understand how to get things done. While everyone experiences obstacles, individuals who understand how to get around them and still deliver on time are the people who will become leaders in the future. Those with a strong record of excellent performance have the vision and drive to get things done even when a great deal of pressure exists. These individuals should be clear forerunners for future leaders.
A focus on the long term.
While managers tend to devote the majority of their attention to short-term goals, business leaders focus on long-term goals and what it will take to get there. Often, leaders begin to establish themselves as employees, by showing that they continually look toward the future and ensure that all of their work is in service of the company’s mission. Vision is extremely important for leaders, and employees who are forward-thinking show that they have not just vision, but the ability to act on that vision.
A clear balance between work and life.
One of the perhaps unexpected inclusions on this list is a work-life balance. Many people try to distinguish themselves by working long hours. However, these individuals may end up becoming burnt out and lose their efficiency.
Great leaders strike a balance between life and work that keeps them recharged when they come to the office. That way, they can work as effectively and efficiently as possible. These individuals then serve as examples to others of how they can accomplish more by working smarter rather than working more.