3 Ways to Reveal Which Employees Have Great Leadership Potential

3 min read
Jun 18, 2015

3 Ways to Reveal Which Employees Have Great Leadership PotentialFinding a successor is a key component to any manager’s long-term strategy. In the meantime, leaders will have to identify employees suited for managerial roles that crop up across their business or entire company. But it’s not easy — even the most skilled employees in a certain position don’t necessarily translate to management potential. Leaders have to look a little harder.

According to the Gallup report “Why Great Managers are Rare”:

  • Nearly one in five of those currently in management roles demonstrate a high level of talent for managing others, and another one in five show a basic talent for it
  • These two stats combined contribute 48% higher profit to their companies than average managers do
  • Companies fail to choose the candidate best fit for the manager job 82% of the time

If managers are so linked to profit potential, choosing the right leaders is crucial. But most of the time, that’s not done. To help current managers out, there are three leadership qualities to look for in your existing talent base to find high potential management candidates — and every choice should have all three.

Aspiration: Wanting More, More, More

You can’t force an employee into a management position if they don’t want it. Some workers are happy with their current workload and work-life balance and don’t want to disrupt what they have going. Even if they’re the best employee you’ve got, they’re not the one you’re looking for.

Instead, you want the employees who volunteer for projects, who want to take on more responsibilities and accountability, who come up with new ideas, and who have expressed interest in their career track within your company. If you’re not sure of who that candidate is, the easiest thing is to ask. Probe potential managers about their longer-term aspirations, how they’d feel in a more senior, leadership role. Their attitude about the questions will be able to tell you your answer.

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Ability: Knowing How to Get It Done

Don’t mistake ability for just job skill. This combines the personality and learned skills necessary for a leader. At the base level, yes, potential managers should be good at their jobs. But select a list of the top 10, 20, or whatever you might need, and then dig into these key personality traits they should have. Above all, watch how they interact with people — whether they’re peers, interns, or bosses.

Identify your employees who have developed strong office relationships built on open communication, or who handle each customer with a natural grace and care. They should be motivational, but also they must be able to have an assertiveness. And in case it’s not obvious, eliminate candidates that make decisions based strictly on office politics or who have minimal interpersonal skills.

Engagement: Living the Culture for the Long Term

If you promote a manager who then leaves the company after a few months, you haven’t promoted the right manager. You need someone who (at least in plans) intends to stick around, for the sake of every worker underneath them on the totem pole.

To find these employees, of course look for the rational commitment to the company — are they moving soon? Have they discussed other career options? But just as important, look for people who have an emotional commitment to the company, who embody its values, and who participate in team events. Employees who understand and buy into organizational values are less likely to leave a company.

It takes a lot of time and resources to hire and train a manager, so your candidate selection is crucial to make sure they’re the right fit for the job.



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