Even with high potential, every new leader needs to be set up for success from the beginning for strong leadership.
Nurturing and developing leaders from within says a lot about your company culture. It shows you invest in your staff’s future. They can see how much you value them while emphasizing your own ability to shape the future of your organization.
To be fair, there is great potential for everyone. Each person within your company ecosystem serves an important purpose and contributes to a greater vision. But it’s also fair to say that only a select few are truly cut from the leadership cloth and can be nurtured and developed to lead others in a way that they will follow.
As you’re on the hunt to identify your company’s next generation of leaders, consider the following characteristics that will indicate you’ve found the right ones and what to do to bring out their leadership skills and talent and help it flourish.
How to Identify Potential Future Leaders
In a previous blog post, we touched on six essential points that every great leader shares, but those qualities don’t solely apply to those currently involved in a leadership role. You can also look for these same qualities in junior and mid-level talent that could indicate a promising future.
However, keep in mind that up-and-coming leaders will need nurturing and development before they’re ready to assume a higher-tier role. The following characteristics can help you spot a diamond in the rough that could benefit from ongoing leadership development.
They’re Highly Engaged
Asking thoughtful questions or making helpful suggestions shows an individual is there for more than just a paycheck. They care about the work they do and want to contribute their talents in an impactful way.
They’re Excellent Communicators
Leadership potential hinges on communication, both in terms of delivering messages and receiving them. Future leaders should know how to address others to ensure their message is clearly understood, but they should also be aware of when to stop talking and simply listen.
They Know How to Stay Humble
Future leaders know their accomplishments speak for themselves and don’t feel the need to show off. Rather, they aim to inspire others without having to first prove their worth. It’s easy to get caught up in the confidence and charisma of an individual, but watch out for exceptional people that are all about the “me” vs the “we”.
They Invest in Personal Development
Education never ends, and great future leaders continually pour into their own minds and skillsets. They’re also comfortable with acknowledging their flaws and weaknesses and finding ways to improve them.
They Fail with Confidence
Those with the most leadership potential aren’t perfect. Rather, they acknowledge that failure is part of the learning process, and they do so with grace and a growth mindset. Most importantly, they don’t let failure hold them back and don’t beat themselves up over a mistake.
4 Ways to Nurture and Develop a Strong Leadership
With the right support and encouragement, companies can identify the potential of junior and mid-level staff and develop them into strong managers, directors, and other leadership roles from within. Let’s look at some practical ways that good leaders are created, not born:
1. Nurture a Culture of Risk-Taking
The price of failure can often be high, but great leaders shouldn’t let fear prevent them from taking risks. On the contrary, research suggests that organizations that value risk-taking are five times more likely to forecast and respond to change and seven times more likely to innovate ahead of other companies.
Building a culture that embraces risk-taking requires teaching the difference between effective and poor risks and choices. Business leaders can step in to share real-life examples and their own experiences, along with recognizing and rewarding calculated risks, even when they result in failure.
2. Foster Open Communication About Their Goals
It’s impossible to prepare the next wave of company leaders if you aren’t clear on their personal and professional goals. Simply having the ability to lead others doesn’t always mean someone is willing to step up to a management role. Being a leader comes with great responsibility, and those who aren’t ready to challenge themselves or embrace the opportunity may not want to be considered for such a lofty role.
However, those who do exhibit leadership potential and demonstrate they’re interested in advancing their career are usually goal-setters by nature. They don’t leave their career to chance and are willing to put forth the effort to level up in their current roles.
In essence, they’re self-nurturers and believe in taking a proactive role in their own development. But current leadership can help them take it a step further by openly communicating their goals and desires. It shows you take a valued interest in their success and helps you get to know more about them. In doing so, you can be better positioned to know what motivates them and use this to help them reach their goals.
3. Teach Them to Ask Questions
Leaders have a tendency to question everything, not because they are skeptical of the truth but because they’re always challenging themselves and others to find the best path forward. They ask tough questions of themselves and others and treat every answer as a learning opportunity.
Teaching how to ask questions is an essential component of leadership development. Many of us are inquisitive by nature, but others need to understand the value of asking the right questions and what to do with the answers they receive. And arguably, the best way to teach someone how to ask questions is simply to ask them yourself. Some questions you might start with:
- What would you do in this situation and why?
- What are any negative repercussions of doing it this way?
- Why is this the best choice?
- How will you handle the effects of your decision?
4. Balance Mentoring and Coaching
There’s a delicate line between mentoring and coaching. Coaching takes action in the moment of a specific issue, while mentoring occurs over the long term. Both are essential in cultivating great leaders, thinkers, and doers. Make sure you’re not only overcoming current challenges but also guiding with the future in mind.
Careful nurturing and development isn’t a seminar or training session—it’s integrated into every day. Such attention to the process is the best chance of creating a future generation of strong leadership from within that can ensure the longevity of the organization that developed them.
Chameleon Collective also offers interim leadership & advisory services for those companies who may not have their strong leadership setup yet or who need help shaping and structuring that group of leaders.
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