Seeking a competitive advantage for your organization is a full-time job in itself. Because of the pace of business today, the five-year-plan of old may be squeezed and condensed into a one-year-plan.

Time will move forward, whether or not we (and our organizations) do.

Technology continues to evolve rapidly, as do consumers and workforces, and the business that wants to develop and maintain a competitive advantage must accomplish more, in less time than in years past. But however fast the pace of business, organizations cannot do without great leadership. The effect of exceptional leaders is obvious in terms of higher productivity, increased creativity, and avoidance of missteps.

Yet leadership isn’t static. Wise companies are the ones with a constant eye on emerging leadership, both within their company and in competitors. It may be that the easy part of creating a strong leadership succession is identifying emerging leaders because you must also pique their interest in leadership. Here’s how to do it.

Look for These Qualities in Potential Leaders

Promoting someone to a leadership position solely because they have paid their dues and it is “their turn” is a huge gamble. You’re far better off looking through your ranks and identifying the behaviors and attitudes that pay off in leadership, whether someone appears destined for leadership in the next year, or the next ten years. Here are some key characteristics to look for in people when determining the most promising leadership potential:

  • Leadership by example – whether or not they are in a position of leadership, some people are perceived as a leader. They show up on time, set high standards, and demonstrate an example of everyday excellence.
  • Dedication to personal growth – through learning new skills, asking about opportunities, and sharing what they have learned with others
  • Trust and respect from coworkers – a characteristic that you simply cannot put a price on!
  • Decisiveness – because while it’s good to evaluate all options, ultimately moving forward requires making unequivocal decisions based on sound reasoning
  • Passion – regardless of how mundane their tasks may be, when a person is engaged in what they’re doing, that passion is contagious

Definitions and Goals for Leadership Promotion

Suppose a new leadership position opens up in your organization. Now is your chance to help an emerging leader take their first steps and develop their leadership skills further. The first step is to define what “leadership” means in this job context. Maybe you need a shift leader, or perhaps your company is creating a new team that needs a team leader. Define what this person will be required to do, because otherwise, how will you know whether they’re meeting the challenge?

Clearly define leadership positions. People need to know exactly what will be required of them.

You must also define your decision-making process for promoting someone to this position. Sure, you may feel like you know exactly who would fulfill the position optimally, but you have to make sure you’re not promoting someone solely based on a hunch. If you were telling someone else how to choose the right person for the position, what would you advise that they look for? Would they come to the same conclusion you would? Explore your options for fulfilling the position first, because you want to be confident that the emerging leader you’re considering is indeed right (and ready) for the promotion.

Frame Leadership Training to Maximize Interest and Effectiveness

Of course, leadership development involves more than simply promoting the right person for the right leadership position. Leadership training is essential too. Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore found that how you frame the concept of leadership training influences both enthusiasm for participation and training effectiveness.

Specifically, they found that when a leadership training program was framed in terms of “improving leadership skills,” people were more interested in participating than they were when the identical program was framed as “becoming a leader.” What’s more, educational materials framed in terms of “leadership skills” produced significantly better content recollection than did the same materials that were framed as “how to be a leader.” It would appear that people are more interested in learning and applying leadership skills than they are at being labeled a leader!

Ultimately, when you take the time to really evaluate people, and to identify the right people for leadership positions, your leadership training programs will produce measurable results. If you are responsible for leadership succession within your organization, I encourage you to find out more about my leadership coaching services. 

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