Six ways to spot emerging leaders

By January 5, 2014All


As a leader, one of your key roles is to spot and develop potential leaders. Great leaders have the ability to identify rising managers and leaders in the making. But how do you spot an emerging leader and then develop them into a leadership role?

Recently, I recognized someone in my organization and communicated with them my observations and thoughts on their potential. It’s a very rewarding experience to share uplifting feedback on someone’s potential.

The conversation energized me and the person I was speaking with. It led me to think that as leaders should really take the time to spot other leaders in our organization.

Picking the right people and training them is essential to cultivating leadership talent in any organization, community and even a family.

For me, the most telling environment in which to assess leadership potential is seeing people in action. How do they handle a challenging situation? Do they have the attitude to rally people to a cause? Do they have a compelling vision for the people they engage with? emerging

Here are six ways to spot emerging leaders and develop them into a leadership role:

1. Tell them that you believe in them. And mean it. Encouragement goes a long way in nudging a potential leader. Many people feel that their manager does not encourage them and recognize them enough. Great leaders understand the power of inspiration and motivation in their daily engagement with potential leaders.

2. Tell them the potential you see in them. Help them paint a picture of their bright future. Be very specific in what you see. By being specific, you are acknowledging the behaviors and attitudes the emerging leader has to perform to the next level.

3. Give them a chance to lead, and set things up for an easy win. Set them up for success. They may not have all the tools and resources available to them right away, but great leaders support their teams from beginning to end.

4. Ask for feedback on your own leadership. Feedback is valuable all the way around. 360 degree feedback is critical to any leader. Listen to understand and act toward a positive outcome that would enable people to ask for guidance into their journey.

5. Read and discuss books on leadership…together. Meet as you’re reading through it, and discuss observations you find. This is a great way to engage with emerging leaders to share leadership insights and ideas. Great leaders are students of leadership. They are learners.

6. Give them authority over an area of your organization and community. Give them a special project.  People are motivated by owning a task or project that they can lead. It empowers them in a creative way and tests their leadership.  Trust them to make decisions and lead well, and follow up to ensure they feel supported and are growing.

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Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Philip Uglow says:

    Thanks Tal, very informative post. I would like to add to keep your eye out for employees that say “pick me, pick me!” when opportunities come up.

  • Great article! Well, for me the real essence of leadership is not to gather followers that will say yes to your every command but to find future leaders that will continue your cause. That’s what I call legacy.

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  • David Mainella says:

    Hi Tal,
    I would add 7) Help them create a personal development plan
    I believe that helping others develop a roadmap for their continued development is a great way to help them keep focused.

  • Aileen Martin says:

    These are great development ideas once we spot the emerging leaders. I think we also need to encourage our colleagues to look for the new leaders and offer guidance and coaching. Sometimes we discourage young leaders when they step out and take risks instead of helping them to observe situations, analyze options and let them lead where the cost of risk is acceptable.

  • Dawn Murphy says:

    I might add…have the conversation. Periodically open up a discussion about what your direct report wants out of career or share your observations on their potential leadership strength. If someone really wants the technical path or to be an individual contributor its good to know. Then again, while some know they want to lead others with leadership potential might just not have discovered their own strengths. Here you can help by letting them know you see the potential and feel they can do it…then if they are eager work with them to identify opportunities and put them into situations where they can develop their abilities. It’s the most joyous part of being a manager!