Bringing the Latent Leaders on Your Team to Light

By Robert Half July 17, 2015 at 8:56pm

An employee who is next in line for a management role according to the department’s staffing flowchart is not necessarily someone who is well suited to lead. In fact, the best future leaders for your business may not be the most obvious choices.

The latent leaders on your team may not even realize they have the “right stuff.” So, it may be down to you, as a manager, to help them see — and realize — their potential.

Here’s some advice:

STEP 1: Identify the traits of leadership

If an employee exhibits qualities like these, you likely have a future leader in your midst:

  • Ability to see the big picture. Does this person seem to understand how his or her contributions help to further the objectives not only of the department, but also the company, as a whole?

  • An aptitude for inspiration. Does this employee rally colleagues to stay focused on and motivated to achieve a common goal, even when they encounter unexpected setbacks or when stress is running high?

  • Exceptional soft skills. Is this person known for his or her outstanding interpersonal abilities, such as diplomacy, empathy, and active listening? Be sure to take public speaking and writing skills into account, as well.

  • Delegation know-how. Does this employee excel at time management, and know when to ask for assistance, so he or she can stay on track with high-value projects?

  • Innovative thinking. Is this team member quick to assist in helping the business to solve problems, and to offer creative ideas and new approaches?

STEP 2: Provide opportunities for growth

Once you’ve identified the latent leaders on your team, and determined that they are in fact interested in following this career ladder in your organization, connect them with opportunities that will help them to refine their leadership skills. Some suggestions:

Professional development opportunities

Job shadowing, training online or in-house, and — if there is budget available — financial assistance to earn industry certifications are just some of the many ways your business can help employees build essential leadership skills.


Through mentoring arrangements — traditional or not — employees gain new insights, are exposed to different perspectives, and learn valuable skills that can help them to manage others and make business decisions effectively.

Industry involvement

Membership in industry organizations can provide professionals with learning and networking opportunities that can help them build executive-level skills and raise their profile as emerging business leaders.

Turn up the wattage

Bringing the latent leaders on your team to light is important to your business for two reasons: First, it’s critical to your succession planning efforts, whether your company is big or small. Second, professional development can have a direct and positive impact on whether your organization is able to retain top talent.

So, don’t waste another moment: Help promising employees to see their potential and give the tools and support to make their leadership abilities shine bright.

What professional development methods do you use to help employees recognize their leadership potential? Share your best practices in the comments.

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