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Identifying Aspiring Leaders

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“You don't have to hold a position in order to be a leader."

– HENRY FORD, FOUNDER OF THE FORD MOTOR COMPANY

We know it’s important to show our team we care about them personally and professionally, and to recognize individuals for their performance. A culture of recognition keeps people engaged and performing well. One way high performers like to be rewarded is with accelerated responsibilities or opportunities. These are people who have leadership qualities, enjoy taking on new challenges, and work to find solutions. Chances are some of the high performers on your team are also aspiring leaders.

Leadership Is a Choice, Not a Rank

Aspiring leaders and high performers want to be held accountable to clearly defined outcomes and measures and are interested in the opportunity for greater responsibility. People who inspire and motivate their colleagues, role-model the organization’s desired behaviors, and display leadership qualities are showing signs of being interested in becoming a new leader. If you aren’t sure who your high performers are, differentiating staff performance levels is a good starting point.

Identifying aspiring leaders on your team is necessary for retaining your most talented employees, and also for the future of the organization. There will come a time when some leaders will retire, give notice, or abruptly leave their position. Proactively identifying new leaders helps the organization stay agile and prepared with a succession plan.

Think about your team members who are:

The team members who display the leadership qualities listed above show potential for leadership. As you’re building relationships with these individuals, don’t be surprised if they express interest in leadership. During your one on one conversations with potential new leaders, probe about their passions and their career goals. Look for opportunities to coach and support your aspiring leaders.

We recommend putting a process in place for identifying and developing aspiring leaders. For example, one organization has its new leaders, who are at the end of their new leadership development program, decide who will be in the next round of the new leadership development program. Whether your process includes formal sessions, or informal mentoring partners, the organization will benefit from identifying and supporting its aspiring new leaders.

Identify Aspiring Leaders in 3 Steps

Set Individual Performance Expectations and Behavioral Standards

  • Clear expectations provide employees a blueprint for what’s expected from them at work.
  • If you haven’t already established these expectations, employees maybe confused about what is
    expected of them.

Observe Behavior and Monitor Performance

  • Who exceeds expectations?
  • Who inspires those around them and role models the organization’s values?
  • Who offers to take on new responsibilities and displays leadership qualities?

Provide Coaching and Support

  • Learn what your employees are passionate about.
  • For those employees who are exceeding your expectations, ask them what opportunities they would like to have at work.
  • Offer new responsibilities to your aspiring leaders.
  • Consider putting your aspiring leaders on a path for new leadership development.

Question for Passion

During one-on-one conversations with potential new leaders, dig deep to learn about what motivates the individual. What part of their work do they most enjoy? What would they like to do more of? What skill areas do they think they want to develop? Connecting people with what they are passionate about at work increases results.

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