Leadership skills are often considered to be the most valuable form of human capital found in an organisation. Spying leadership potential early in an employees’ career allows organisational leaders to assist the next generation of leaders to reach their maximum potential.
Continuing to provide these high performers with opportunities to practice leadership and to advance within the organisation will increase their engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction, and decrease the likelihood that they will take their new-found skills elsewhere.
While there are a wide variety of factors that one should look for when attempting to identify those with leadership potential, there are a few factors that always seem to set leaders apart.
Naturally, a great leader will be confident in themselves and their abilities, though not so confident as to be unrealistic or arrogant. This confidence can be encouraged and grown in those with leadership potential by providing training opportunities and evidence-based performance appraisals targeting skill growth.
Another excellent sign of high potential is the ability to engage in creative problem-solving. While it may not seem like it on the surface, the ability to think outside of the box and come up with innovative solutions on the fly can turn a highly stressful office crisis into a minor trouble.
This ability to innovate often comes with the ability to multi-task, and to track a high volume of projects in various states of completion. Providing potential leaders with opportunities to tackle roadblocks and stalled projects with a creative and perceptive outlook can help to take these creative leadership skills to the next level.
Individuals who appear to thrive in team environments are often prime candidates for leadership roles, and this may in fact be the most useful talent for potential leaders to possess. Emotional intelligence, that is, the ability to identify, interpret, and change the emotional states of themselves and others, is an innate trait that cannot be easily taught.
Emotional intelligence is found in high levels amongst both team players and strong leaders, and these skills provide unparalleled abilities when it comes to conflict mediation and in managing a range of personalities others may find difficult to handle.
Furthermore, individuals who are high in emotional intelligence are generally very well versed in the art of negotiation and delegation. They are able to easily identify the tasks that best fit the skills of each member of their work team, and can encourage employees to produce their best work without coming across as overbearing.
These empathetic leaders are often able to lead by example, and are exceptionally capable of establishing and maintaining a positive work environment.
That said, leaders must keep in mind that there are some traits that may seem to indicate leadership potential that should remain suspect. For instance, not all high performers are capable of eliciting high performance in others, and sometimes individuals who are seen as energetic and confident as team members can become arrogant and downright manic in a leadership role.
Additionally, just because an employee is well liked by their colleagues or a veteran team member who has been with the organisation for decades does not mean that they have leadership potential.
Finally, leaders must keep in mind that not all employees with leadership potential want to become organisational leaders. Even those with leadership experience in their past may simply prefer to leave the challenges and stresses of leadership to others, and remain skilled team members instead.
For those who do wish to move into leadership positions and show the confidence, creative thinking, and emotional intelligence necessary, taking the time to foster and grow these skills early in their career is sure to produce exceptionally talented leaders who are prepared to take their organisation to the next level.
Head of Training
Originally published: 19 January, 2015
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