8 Ways to Spot Leadership Potential in Your Employees

By Lizzie Exton - Aug. 29, 2018
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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Lizzie Exton. Lizzie is a freelance writer with Inspiring Interns. Her opinions are her own. 

Leaders have to be cut from a very special cloth, and not everybody will be leadership material. It can be hard to identify those with the special skills early enough to help them flourish, but if you can spot those who have the potential to be great leaders then your business could reap the rewards in the future.

It is beneficial to recognise and then nurture leadership potential in your employees. They could be the future managers at your company, they could lead successful client meetings and help motivate staff.

Here are eight signs to look out for if you want to spot the employees who could go on to greater things.

1. They show a higher level of engagement

If there’s a team member who always has thoughtful suggestions or asks the right questions, they may well be leadership material.

People who take an interest in the wider company and in other job roles within the organisation are born leaders, able to appreciate the bigger picture and where they fit in to it. It’s also true to say that leaders engage with other people more than they do with screens – if they’re good at talking to the rest of the team and don’t spend all day staring at their phone, they could well have the leadership qualities you need.

2. They’re comfortable with failure

The best leaders recognise that failure is part of life, and they know when it’s time to put it down to experience and move on. Nobody likes failing, but some people are better than others at learning the lesson and pushing forward, whether the failure is their own or someone else’s. If they hold a grudge because someone else fell short or they get too hung up on their own shortcomings, they’re not going to be good in a leadership role.

3. They have great communication skills

Great leaders are always great communicators, and those who can convey their thoughts and ideas in simple terms and make people understand them are the winners to back. Bear in mind that they may not be the most vocal people in the room. It’s not about how loud they speak or how much they say, but about when they choose to open their mouths and the quality of the words which come out. If they’re articulate, thoughtful and always choose their words carefully, they may well be among the leaders of tomorrow.

4. They know when to listen

Following on from that, far too many people will open their mouths before engaging their brains. Great managers know that you should listen twice as much as you speak if you want to lead well, and good leaders know that they don’t have all the answers. Look out for those employees who spend more time listening than they do talking – the quiet ones are often those who think and deliberate the hardest before reaching any decisions, and nobody wants a leader who bypasses other people’s thoughts and ideas in favour of their own.

5. They don’t need to show off

Affectation is ugly, and the best leaders know that they don’t need to show off to prove their worth to themselves or to others. If someone is good at their job and can inspire the rest of the team with a few carefully chosen words, they will make a brilliant leader one day. People who need to crow about their success or put on a show in front of their colleagues will just rub people up the wrong way, and they’re revealing some deep-rooted insecurities which won’t help them in a managerial role.

6. They get the best out of others

Good leaders know that success is all about getting the best from others, not using the situation to their own advantage all the time. If your employee is happy to give praise where it’s due and step back to let others shine, then you’re on to a winner. The best leaders demonstrate deep empathy and emotional intelligence, and are confident enough in their own abilities that they don’t feel the need to hog the limelight when things go well.

Spot those who are pleased at the success of others and you may well have found someone with leadership potential.

7. They can multitask

Those in leadership roles need to be able to juggle lots of tasks at the same time without taking their eye off the ball. Test out those you think have leadership potential by giving them extra responsibilities and seeing how they manage. Those who take the additional work in their stride are the ones to earmark as the leaders of tomorrow, those who panic or struggle won’t do well in a leadership role.

8. They know that education never stops

The best leaders know that you never stop learning, and they know they will always have flaws and weaknesses to work on. They’re also open-minded to career development opportunities and seize every chance you offer them when it comes to picking up extra skills and undertaking training courses. Even those who have been in a senior position for decades should know that you never stop learning and improving, and there’s always more which can be done to make them even greater leaders.

If you want to find the leaders of tomorrow, you need to focus on an individual’s potential rather than their current performance. Those who quietly strive to improve themselves and their wider team are almost always a better long-term prospect than those who shout the loudest and show an overabundance of confidence or self-belief.

Spot the talented individuals early and nurture their leadership skills if you want to keep them on board. Not everyone can handle the unique pressures which come with leading a team, but if you can spot their potential early in their career you will help them – and your business – flourish in the future.

Lizzie Exton is a freelance writer and editor. She holds a BA and MA in English, and previously worked for Penguin Random House. She currently writes for graduate recruitment agency, Inspiring Interns.


Lizzie Exton

Lizzie Exton is a freelance writer and editor. She holds a BA and MA in English, and previously worked for Penguin Random House. She currently writes for graduate recruitment agency, Inspiring Interns.

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