Your internal leadership pipeline is just as important as your external sales pipeline. Just as you need a constant flow of incoming business, you also need people with leadership potential to be rising to the top in your firm. If you have a strong pipeline of emerging leaders, you can promote from within when a position opens up, allowing you to retain the organizational knowledge and talents of your current workforce.
To identify excellent candidates for future leadership roles, look for these five leadership qualities in your employees.
1. Outstanding Communication
All great leaders demonstrate great communication skills. Are any of your employees admired by others for always communicating clearly and honestly? Is any employee great at writing well, speaking well, and leading by example?
Communication skills can also come disguised as good social skills. Which of your employees do others want to be around at social functions? Which of them use their time at, say, a company barbecue to make better social connections and strengthen their network?
Leaders should be likable, which often comes from being generous with their praise, listening carefully, and being quick to help others by providing useful information (whether face-to-face, over the phone, or in an email).
Very importantly, they should also genuinely like the people around them, striving to understand others and build quality relationships with them.
Good candidates for leadership positions often value being responsible and dependable. They care deeply that their work is on time and of high quality, and they immediately learn from and correct any mistakes they make, never placing the blame on others.
If you were to promote such employees, this habit of responsibility would be valuable in numerous ways. In addition to fulfilling their job responsibilities dependably, they also wouldn’t blame direct reports for their own mistakes and could teach others to use every situation as a learning opportunity.
Do you know of any employees who are taking on more new or difficult projects than others? Without telling these employees that they’re being evaluated for promotion, you could assign them to complete additional complex projects and see if they continue to act responsibly.
Which of your employee seems to naturally feel responsible for improving the company and the quality of the team’s work? Employees who exhibit these qualities may be ready to lead.
3. Working with Vision
A major role of leaders is to strive for the actualization of their company’s mission and vision statements. Which of your employees are already engaged in that practice?
Through conversations and performance evaluations, find out which employees perform their small, daily tasks with an understanding of a larger perspective, seeking to contribute to the success of the whole company.
Have any employees developed a knack for predicting what the company’s leadership will need next?
Do any employees prioritize tasks that will have the greatest effect on your company mission? Who works to improve the company so it better reflects your vision statement?
4. Critical-Thinking Skills
Great leaders use their critical-thinking abilities to solve the problems facing your company. Find out which employees have track records of presenting solutions that are well-aligned with what your clients value—and what is valued by the company’s leaders.
Notice the employees who are constantly learning about the company’s current activities and other employees’ projects. They may be gathering information that will help them find even better solutions. You may also want to consider employees who
- Contribute a variety of relevant ideas during meetings.
- Analyze problems from several useful angles before responding to or acting on them.
- Schedule time to think deeply without distractions.
Confidence is necessary for leaders; they must be decisive. But confidence doesn’t mean arrogance. Rather, it’s a strong bias towards taking action balanced with a reasonable assessment of their own abilities.
In Inc. magazine, contributing editor Jeff Haden listed the following habits that indicate confidence in employees:
- Requesting help
- Giving credit to others
- Being unafraid to defend a position, even if it could be wrong
- Listening more often than talking
- Taking initiative to reach goals, instead of waiting to be given authority
- Not being afraid to look bad
- Seeking the trust and respect of only the right people
- Never putting others down
- Trying new things without fear of failure (failure can lead to success)
If no one in your company is ready for a new leadership role, hiring from the outside can be a fine option—and it’s certainly a better option than promoting someone from within who isn’t qualified.
If you have employees who display several of the five leadership qualities described above, their talents may be put to better use in leadership positions than in their current roles. Meeting with each one about his or her interest in assuming more responsibility could be very beneficial to the future of your organization.