How to Identify Potential Leaders Among Your Employees – Ryan Ayers

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Succession planning isn’t something many companies think about, but it’s absolutely crucial to the long-term success of any organizations. No matter how many levels there are between employees on the ground and the executive suite, the leadership of every company needs to prepare for the possibility that someone in a management or executive position will leave within the next year or two. Retirement, health or family emergencies, poor performance, or other opportunities elsewhere are just a few reasons members of your team could leave before you’re expecting them to. When that happens, you could find yourself with a shortage of qualified employees to take over the vacant roles, putting the business’s success at risk. That’s why it’s so important to be proactive, and start training the future leaders of your company right away. But how do you identify them? Here are some personality traits to look for when considering potential leaders.

Innovative Thinker

Who comes up with the best ideas in your weekly meetings? While innovative thinkers don’t always make good leaders, it’s a quality that bodes well for problem-solving and creativity—both of which are required in leadership roles. Future leaders should be able to approach problems facing their team creatively and come up with solutions decisively and quickly. They also need to know when to pivot and change tactics if one approach isn’t working—a talent that also requires creativity and a willingness to take risks.

A Gifted Communicator

Communication is involved in a staggering amount of everyday work we do, no matter what industry your company may be in. Furthermore, poor communication is one of the main causes of low morale, poor productivity, and many other issues in the workplace. When looking for your organization’s future leaders, observe how your employees interact with others. Are they able to convey their meaning quickly, while making others feel at ease? Are they able to engage with others, even when the subject matter is confrontational or sensitive? Communication can be taught, but those who have a natural gift for communication often make the best leaders.

Exceptional Engagement

Of course, when you’re scouting within your team for the next generation of leaders, you should be looking for someone who is highly engaged with the company and its overall goals. In 2015, only 32% of workers were engaged at work—and fewer of these have the skills needed for leadership. Very few employees will have all the traits you’re looking for, but an engaged employee will have the drive to develop these skills and may have the potential to become an exceptional leader.

Emotional Intelligence

Today, teamwork is extremely important in the workforce. In order to become successful leaders, your employees will need to have high levels of emotional intelligence, empathy, and humility. They should be able to adapt their communication styles to meet the needs of their peers, and work to find a common ground during conflict, rather than letting pride guide their actions. They should have good moral character, ethics, and treat everyone around them with respect.

Initiative & Accountability

Some people prefer to sit back and agree with the group, while others are self-motivated and take the initiative to implement ideas. These are the people who will forge ahead and come up with a plan of action—then follow through with it. If they make a mistake, they don’t blame other people—they take full accountability for their actions. A person with initiative will solve problems on behalf of others, and will never blame their own mistakes on colleagues, essential qualities of effective leaders.

Grace under Pressure

As anyone in a leadership role knows, it’s often difficult to juggle the many responsibilities involved with management. Many people can’t take the pressure, and buckle as new responsibilities are added onto their place. Someone who displays grace under pressure often makes a great leader—especially if they have no problem delegating. Try offering some of your most promising employees new responsibilities, and give them the option of delegating some of these duties. See how they react to taking on extra responsibilities—and whether or not they give them away.

Groomed for Success

Many people who have the skills and aptitude for a leadership role never get the chance to apply those skills. Most employers would rather hire someone from the outside with experience, rather than promoting and training from within. This is a massive missed opportunity, because someone who is already working for the company is familiar with its culture and inner workings, and can be trained in the leadership style preferred by the organization. By practicing smart succession planning and grooming high-potential employees for success, your company can gain a competitive edge over the competition—and give your team a chance to grow, thrive, and eventually train the next generation of exceptional leaders.