How to Identify & Develop Future Leaders

Talent and technology are often quoted as the two main drivers of growth. Without effective leadership, companies face an uncertain future. For smaller companies who do not have corporate leadership development programmes, the problem of how to secure additional leadership capacity can be more acute especially in an increasingly knowledge driven economy. 

There is always the ‘buy it in’ option – hire someone with a proven track record elsewhere who is already ‘developed’.  But this doesn’t always give the right cultural fit or send the right message to the rest of your team.

Looking internally at your current teams can provide the answers if you have an approach to identify, nurture, develop and shape your talent. Building foundations early will help in the long-term.

To identify talent, don’t just consider employees who are good at their jobs. Focus on individuals with the potential to grow through experience who share the company’s values and culture. Many managers get promoted into leadership roles before they are really ready. Identify the inner leadership skills you are looking for – competence, character, values and behaviours.

Nurture Your Talent

Mentoring, coaching and feedback are critical aspects of leadership development but are all too easy to miss because there are not people in the business with the skills to provide this or there is precious little time. Consider if there might be other senior employees or recently retired ex-employees who might be able to provide a mentor role. Sometime a chat over coffee once a month can be all it takes to make someone feel supported.

Develop your Talented People

Help them develop and gain understanding and insight across the business. Maybe you could consider job rotation or secondments. Good leaders can apply their skills to different problems and operations and sometimes a change rather than more of the same will help someone develop.

Formal Development Through Training

Maybe management qualifications, can give people the opportunity to learn methodologies and techniques and build a network outside of the workplace. It doesn’t always have to be expensive – consider management apprenticeships that are available up to degree level.

Shape the Leaders you Want

Give people a challenge, place them in real situations that will utilise their critical thinking and creativity under pressure. Remember their solutions might not be yours and allow them the space to shape their own leadership approaches. Showing trust and respect and modelling behaviours can sometimes be more important than telling someone how things should be done.

And finally Reward and Recognise Achievement

It might be through new responsibilities, a new job title, it might be financial or a stake in the company.  By now you should know what is important to the emerging leader so tailor the reward to fit them.