The Ledger No. 61: Identifying Potential Leaders on Your Team

August 3, 2022 Theresa Rex

Multicultural team meeting on identifying potential leaders in organization

Welcome to The Ledger where we sum up the latest finance and accounting news and trends for you. On this week’s entry, we’re exploring how to identify and nurture the potential leaders on your team – future changemakers hiding in plain sight. For organizations that are engaged in the battle for talent, tapping the resources you already have on hand can be the difference between winning and losing. Read on to explore how to start identifying, coaching, and retaining potential leaders at work.

The Weekly Ledger identifying potential leaders in organization

Know The 3 Major Traits Leaders Have In Common

Often, when it’s time to tap an employee for a leadership role, stakeholders will look for what they can quantify in a candidate. The number of years they’ve been in their current position, perhaps – or the highest performing team member. There are certain situations where those things are important to take into consideration, of course but they’re not the only thing -- or even the first thing -- you should be using to identify leaders on your team.

Instead, take stock of what’s qualitative before you start crunching numbers. After all, anyone who has had a boss that required them to walk on eggshells, ego-feed or “manage up” excessively knows that the best employee doesn't always make the best leader. The three traits you should be on the lookout for?

  • Self-awareness. Good leaders look inward and can make an honest assessment about what they contribute to their organization, team and culture. They see failure as an opportunity to improve themselves, not a chance to throw someone else under the bus.

  • Emotional intelligence. Having the vocabulary to name their own emotions and manage them on one’s own is table stakes in today’s workplace. The tendency to “take it out” on someone else — whether “it” is a tight deadline, stressful end-of-month close or a simple bad hair day — is a sign that someone has skills that lie outside of leadership.

  • Trust-building skills. Active listening, open body language and transparent communication are all great signs that your employee can act as a steward of both the company and the team they’ll lead when the time comes.

Once you’ve found that someone on your team can demonstrate and develop these soft skills, go ahead and crunch the numbers knowing that there’s a solid leadership foundation in place. Take a deeper dive into these three crucial leadership traits over at fastcompany.com.

4 Tools That Use Science to Help You Identify Potential Leaders

Predictive tools like personality and skills assessments can be particularly useful if you’re hoping to formalize the process you use to identify potential leaders among your employees. They’re not the last word, though, and best used as a part of a more holistic evaluation process. Four that have a reputation for being psychometrically and scientifically sound are:

  • NERIS Type Explorer: The NERIS Type Explorer is a free 10-minute personality test that names 16 personality types within four categories.

  • CliftonStrengths: Developed by Gallup, CliftonStrengths has a specific product for managers that can identify which skills a potential leader already has and guide them as they develop further.

  • Predictive Index: Available in more than 70 languages, the PI is a freeform assessment that promises to capture the more nuanced aspects of employees and the working relationships on your team.

  • CPI 260: The California Predictive Index is designed specifically to identify and develop leaders and features a profile section that predicts how others will view a candidate’s leadership style.

Weaving psychometrics and predictive analysis into your leadership identification strategy can help uncover candidates that are poised to lead and track their progress and potential along the way. To see how they fit into a whole-employee assessment strategy, read the full article at business.com.

Look For Traits That Modern Leaders Value

Leadership is evolving. It’s no longer about sequestering yourself away in a corner office and issuing directives via memorandum. Instead, modern leadership requires high emotional intelligence and a willingness to facilitate other people’s success. So instead of looking for the loudest person in the room, keep an eye out for traits like:

  • Empathy

  • Integrity

  • Flexibility

  • Determination

There’s a full suite of characteristics modern leaders share, and if you observe your team closely, you’re sure to see them emerge. To read the full list of modern leadership “tells”— as described by successful leaders themselves — head to rollingstone.com.

Look For Potential Leaders In Unexpected Places

Ever wonder why so many people seem to “fail up” or why there are so many ineffective leaders working today? Some of it could be due to what behavioral and social scientists call “luck bias”. It posits that the assumption we make that individuals or companies are successful because they’re just so good at what they do doesn’t always account for sheer dumb luck. Often, we conflate “success” with “skill” when the former is sometimes the result of luck while the latter is the result of talent and hard work.

There’s an important lesson here for executives and managers who are hoping to identify potential leaders — don’t assume that someone doesn’t have the skills just because they haven’t enjoyed the success yet. Instead, when you look for the “underdogs” you might just find that since they’ve had to work twice as hard to prove they’re just as good as their lucky peers they are more:

  • Motivated

  • Innovative

  • Skilled

  • Determined

  • Driven

  • Risk-resilient

So there’s a case to be made for taking a second look at the members of your team that consistently “show up” but just haven’t had a big win yet. To read the full argument for dark horses as leaders, head on over to HBR.org.

Wish you had more time to start identifying and developing the undiscovered potential leaders on your own team? See how Personiv can help you free up the time you need to do it.

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