How To Identify And Develop Future Business Leaders


OnT Developing Future Business Leaders Ft.Image | OnTalent

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric had some resounding advice for future leaders. In fact, it could be argued that developing leaders in the workplace is critical to the long-term success of every organisation. Excellent executives understand that identifying and cultivating leadership skills within teams fosters a culture of improvement, engagement and growth. Nurturing the qualities that make great leaders provides a springboard for people to easily transition into the role when there is change, or when it is necessary to delegate executive responsibilities. Here are some of the people development strategies that we believe make all the difference between gaining an edge or falling behind in the competitive landscape of business.

Leadership Characteristics to Look For

There are some distinct qualities that most leaders portray at an early stage, so before implementing any form of leadership development program, hone in on the employees who, with a bit of nurturing can become effective managers. Here are the key characteristics to watch out for.

Good Interpersonal Skills

The cornerstone of any great leader is the ability to not only communicate well and build rapport, but also be able to adapt to all levels of the business. When an employee adheres to the needs of the person they are interacting with through a flexible communicative approach, you may have a budding leader on your hands.

Good Time Management

Deadlines punctuate an executive’s calendar more than anything else and being able to manage the plethora of actions efficiently is a real skill. Often these cut off dates have consequences for the teams that are being directed. When you notice individuals managing their own time successfully, hitting milestones consistently and even more importantly holding other accountable, they deserve your attention.

Ability to Take initiative

A seasoned leader has confidence to take the initiative to resolve issues before they arise. Many employees can work with little or no supervision, however, decipher who in the team is proactive enough to iron out problems and provide effective strategies. These are the people worth developing skills for future leadership.

Ability to Work with Others as a Team

Leaders manage a potpourri of personalities, each with their own motivations and skillsets. Collaborative heads who encourage teamwork often get the best out of their people and boost morale. If there are employees who cooperate well with others to produce positive outcomes, they could potentially be on the radar as a future leader.

Strategies for Development

There are as many ways to determine how to develop future leaders, as there are management styles. However, once you have pinpointed the individuals who possess the characteristics you are looking for, there are some actions you can implement that pave the way for leaders to emerge and evolve:

More Responsibility

Unchain new responsibilities and task your employee with the opportunity to own projects, make decisions with autonomy or work with outside stakeholders. This fortifies the trust you have in them and provides fantastic challenges to extend existing capabilities. Other ways your leader could flourish is through smaller leadership roles like running business unit meetings or being part of a company committee. Bear in mind that they might make mistakes. That is part of the journey that will enable them to avoid the same pitfalls in the future.

Increased Exposure

When preparing future leaders effectively in situations where added responsibilities cannot be provided, consider opening their eyes to other areas of the business that are beyond their usual dealings. Getting your future leaders to participate in management board meetings or presenting to a group of business unit managers is a great way for them to broaden their scope of the organisation.

Provide Training in Areas of Development

Create a culture of learning when developing leaders in the workplace. An environment where people are encouraged to be curious and grow outside of their boundaries breeds high performance as well as innovation. This can be done through a well-defined formal setting or a more non-formal approach such as a mentor program. With that said, be sure to offer regular feedback and allow staff to explore fresh ideas and solutions.

An integral part of this culture of development is nurturing resilience. The ability to bounce back is a great tool to not only tackle setbacks but to overcome the daily wave of tasks from mass emails, offline commitments, phone calls, meetings and more.

Keep them Motivated

There will be times when the staff you have mentored are ready to move up but are faced with limited opportunities. In reality, leadership positions can be rare, so how do you keep your talent motivated and engaged? There are a few solutions to combat this:

  • When the right opportunity arises, offer timely and transparent feedback.
  • Often an internal transfer to a different business unit or office in an alternate national/international location will continue to foster interest and progress.
  • Some managers have made the difficult decision to encourage employees to gain experience in another organisation and then return sometime in the future. Unfortunately, this is obviously a double-edged sword, as these valued team members may not come back at all.


Great leaders are advocates of fostering the talents of those they lead. By developing skills for future leadership, they are assuring an organisations longevity, quality talent and increased productivity. Identifying the key people in your team who engender the characteristics that make a leader is the first step. Let your potential managers test the waters with increased accountability and learning opportunities to keep them engaged. The day will come when they will prove themselves to be a valued leader in their own right and that is the best investment you would have made for your business.

For advice on how to recruit potential leaders for your business or for help with any of your recruitment needs, get in touch.

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