9 Steps to Identify Leadership Potential in Employees

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published October 12, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Leadership potential is the capacity for leading others and is often associated with charisma, intelligence, and other personal qualities that enable a person to influence and inspire others. Managers can develop leadership skills through experience, mentorship, and training. Understanding what it takes to be a leader can help you identify potential leaders in the organization and implement strategies to develop their skills. In this article, we explore how you can identify the potential for leadership in your employees and provide tips on encouraging their leadership skills.

How to identify leadership potential in employees

Identifying leadership potential in employees requires you to look for certain qualities and skills typically associated with leadership. Here are some steps you can take to identify leaders in the organization:

1. Look for qualities such as intelligence, charisma, and decisiveness

Potential leaders often show intelligence, charisma, and decisiveness that set them apart from other employees. These qualities help them quickly understand complex situations, gain others' trust, and make difficult decisions. Look for employees who exhibit a combination of these qualities and see how they use them to make sound decisions, generate new ideas, and foster positive relationships with others. You can evaluate these qualities by observing employees in their daily work tasks or through performance reviews.

Related: 7 Essential Leadership Traits of an Effective Leader

2. Observe how employees interact with others

Great leaders can build relationships and interact positively with others. They often take the initiative in group settings and guide those around them. When assessing employees' leadership skills, consider how they interact with their colleagues. Leaders know when to listen and when to share their ideas and provide others with support and encouragement. They also create an environment where everyone can feel comfortable discussing their views openly. You can observe an employee's interactions with others by attending team meetings or watching their behaviour in the workplace.

Related: What Is Emotional Intelligence in Leadership? (Benefits and Tips)

3. Provide opportunities in the workplace for potential leaders to emerge

One way to test your employees' leadership skills is to provide them with opportunities to take charge in the workplace. This involves mentoring them, assigning them to lead a project team, or asking them to present to the company. Having them try new tasks or take on additional responsibilities can also help you assess their leadership skills. Evaluate their ability to take charge, handle pressure, and work under deadlines. If they can complete these tasks, it's a good indication of their leadership abilities.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles

4. Assess their work ethic and commitment to the company

Leaders commit to the company and its goals and work hard to ensure their teams meet those objectives. When assessing an employee's leadership ability, evaluate whether they're dedicated to the company and its success. Observe how they react to changes in the workplace and how they handle adversity. You can also ask them about their long-term goals and how they plan to contribute to the company's success.

Related: Work Ethic and Success in the Workplace

5. Determine if they can make decisions independently

Leaders make decisions that are in the company's best interests, even if that means not following the popular opinion. They're confident in their abilities and execute decisions independently. Look for employees who can make difficult decisions without requiring constant supervision from others. Consider how they handle conflict and whether they can make fair decisions.

6. Ask for referrals

People who work alongside potential leaders often have good insights into their leadership ability. Asking employees, colleagues, or subordinates for their opinions gives you additional feedback on whether an employee has the personality and skills necessary to be a leader. Get input from various people to get a well-rounded view of the employee's leadership skills.

7. Check to see if they're good at problem solving and have a positive attitude

Leaders are often creative and resourceful, allowing them to devise innovative solutions to problems. They also have a positive attitude, even in the face of adversity, which helps to motivate and encourage others around them. When assessing an employee's leadership ability, look for signs that they can solve problems quickly and efficiently. See if they maintain a positive outlook, even when faced with challenging situations.

Related: What Does It Mean to Be a Leader? (With Qualities and Tips)

8. Consider their overall performance

Leaders work hard and always look for ways to improve their performance. They are constantly setting new goals and pushing themselves to reach new levels of success. When assessing an employee's leadership ability, consider their overall performance and see if they're always striving to do better. This includes taking on extra assignments, meeting deadlines, and exceeding expectations. Observe how they handle feedback and whether they use it to improve their performance.

9. Look for employees who are constantly learning and growing

Leaders are lifelong learners who seek new opportunities to learn and expand their skill sets. Look for employees who continuously take on new challenges and learn new things, as these employees desire to develop personally and professionally. When assessing an employee's leadership ability, look for signs that they're dedicated to lifelong learning.

Tips to encourage leadership skills in employees

Once you've identified potential leaders in the organization, it's crucial to provide them with opportunities to develop their skills. Here are a few tips to help you:

Create opportunities for employees to take on additional responsibilities

Giving employees additional responsibilities is a great way to encourage them to step up and take on a leadership role. It's beneficial to provide them with opportunities to practice their soft and hard skills. Create occasions for them to take on extra tasks or responsibilities in the workplace, such as leading a project team or giving a presentation. You can also provide opportunities for them to learn, such as taking on a different role in the company or attending workshops and seminars.

Encourage employees to share their ideas and provide feedback

Establish an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and providing feedback. This open communication allows potential leaders to express their thoughts and suggestions on how the company can improve. It also allows you to get an insight into their thought process and see how they may handle various situations. Provide employees with a platform to share their ideas, such as setting up regular meetings or creating an online forum.

Offer training and development opportunities

Set up a training and development program to help employees develop their leadership skills. This can include workshops, seminars, e-learning courses, and shadowing opportunities. Investing in your employees' development shows you're committed to their personal and professional growth. It also allows them to build skills and knowledge that they can use in their future careers.

Assign mentors to prospective leaders

Offer prospective leaders the opportunity to learn from more experienced employees. You can assign them a mentor who can provide guidance and support. Find a mentor who holds a company leadership position and can share their experience with others. For example, if you're looking to develop an employee's marketing skills, pair them up with the head of the marketing department. The prospective leader and mentor can meet regularly to discuss the various aspects of the job, such as strategy, planning, and execution.

Deliver constructive feedback

Constructive feedback may inform your employees about their strengths and areas for improvement. It also lets them know that you're paying attention to their work and invested in their development. When giving feedback, be specific, objective, and honest. For example, rather than simply telling an employee they did a good job, explain what they did well and how it helped the company. You can also provide suggestions on how they can improve their performance in the future.

Related: A Guide to Constructive Criticism (With Tips and Examples)

Provide constant encouragement

Encourage your employees regularly to help them feel motivated in their work. Showing appreciation for a job well done can help to boost an employee's confidence and encourage them to keep up the excellent work. A simple thank you can go a long way in showing your employees that you value their contribution to the company. You can also give them verbal praise in front of other employees or write them a positive performance review.

Related: How to Motivate Employees

Teach them to network

Teaching potential leaders how to network can help them develop key relationships within the company and industry and strengthen their confidence. Networking allows them to meet new people, learn about different roles and functions, and find mentors and sponsors. You can start by asking them to attend industry events or company functions, such as trade shows, conferences, and seminars. As they become more comfortable, you can encourage them to initiate conversations with people they have previously had contact with. Once they've gained confidence, bring them along to meetings with clients or suppliers.

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