In every organization, high-potential employees (some of them capable of assuming leadership responsibilities) hide in plain sight. Unearth this hidden reservoir of talent and take care of the succession needs of your organization without having to bring in someone from another company. Leadership coaching can help you identify and develop high-potential employees.

As I’ve noted in my leadership coaching books and posts, the issue of leadership succession is one that every organization, big or small, has to face. We may think of our leaders as larger than life, but everyone is human, and subject to the physical limitations of this condition. When the time comes to replace your top leaders, do you have a pool of high-potential employees ready to step up?

future leaders

Your future leaders may be hiding in plain sight. 

Your High Potential Employees and Leadership Succession

Whether you have “leadership material” employees ready to fill the shoes of retiring leaders depends on how your organization manages its workforce. A part of this management process is to keep an eye out for high potentials, recognize them, and develop their talents.

This is the long-term value proposition of business coaching. By recognizing talent and developing it, you maximize the potential of employees, helping them become the best they can be. Some of these employees may develop into your successors someday.

The Problem

Leadership is an inside-out proposition and exercise in influence. How leaders lead and inspire others is a direct consequence of their inner cores, self-concepts, values, characters, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. Not everyone is keen to show off these inner-core abilities due to being introverts.

If leaders let appearances guide their talent recognition exclusively, they will almost certainly miss some valuable hidden leadership gems in their organizations. Seasoned HR and executive coaching professionals know they must dig deeper and put intentional effort into unearthing the hidden factors of leadership.

How do you peel back the veil of shyness and introvert tendencies to discover the true potential of your employees?

potential leaders

Your potential leaders may be hiding in plain sight. 

The Potential Solutions

Some of your employees are great at producing good, repeatable results and getting jobs done, and their peers appreciate them.

Your number one clue in finding high-potential employees is the amount of praise they receive from their peers. Well-liked employees are hubs of internal communication and collaborate well with colleagues. To be well-aligned and good candidates for leadership positions, such employees must fulfill various requirements.

  • Are they the real deal? Successful self-promoters and master communicators may not deliver performances that matter. You need to consider results-based success criteria to tell if your suspected performer is true to form.
  • Why do the other employees like these people? There may be different reasons behind the popularity of your seemingly high-potential employees. Some may act in alignment with the organization’s values and fulfill the roles of company linchpins. Others may just be gossip and rumor mills.
  • Can they deliver? Are your performers willing and capable of taking on new responsibilities? Can they deliver in new roles?
  • Can they make decisions? Leadership requires those in charge to make decisions. When someone makes decisions acting as an agent of change, friction is inevitable. Can your employees handle tension with their peers?
  • Can they change? Leadership development requires those who undergo the process to shed old behaviors and adopt new ones. Leadership candidates must be willing and able to leave their comfort zones and act as ambassadors of change.

If your employees fulfill these requirements, they may be “leadership material,” and developing them may benefit your organization in the future. Here are some practical tips to help you find leaders hiding in your workforce. Look for:

  • The quiet, efficient one
  • The perpetual sidekick
  • The one who always deflects credit
  • The one who always contributes and makes a difference
  • The employee with the specialized knowledge

In every organization, many hidden leaders toil away in pseudo-anonymity. Uncover this hidden reservoir of skill and potential to elevate your organization and its culture to the highest level.


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