Emerging Leaders: How to Spot Them at Every Level

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Emerging leaders exist at every level of your organization. These are the individuals who shine even among employee “diamonds” and take the organization to new heights. Too often, we look only at Millennials when selecting emerging leaders for extra development and promotion. Remember, that while Millennials will make up 46% of the workforce by 2020, we must not ignore the 54% of employees who are in other generations. Age alone is not a qualifier. And 2020 is three years away.

What sets emerging leaders apart from their colleagues? It is their choice to behave in a way that will cause others to follow them. The choice to lead is not common, and it must be nurtured. It emerges at different ages and at different phases of an individual’s career. Changes and circumstances can bring out leader qualities.

How can you spot an emerging leader anywhere in your organization? Emerging leaders demonstrate one or more of these characteristics.

  1. They are a high performer. Sadly, too many people are selected for supervisory or management positions based solely on their performance as an independent contributor. High performers need training and development.
  2. They show high potential in their current role. When an employee demonstrates extra capacity and looks for additional responsibilities, it is a sign they might be a future leader.
  3. They informally influence others. People who rally or inspire others tend to be followed. They are leaders.
  4. They may or may not supervise others. Current supervisory responsibilities alone are not the sign of a leader—but leaders frequently do supervise others.
  5. They live by their values. Leaders know who they are and what their values are. They take actions based on their values. Their values align with the values of the organization.
  6. They believe that tomorrow will be better, because they will make it better! Leaders “see the glass as half full”—or even full!
  7. They inspire others and encourage them to do better. Even informal leaders have followers who go with them into the unknown, perhaps following a change.
  8. They desire to lead. Of all of the characteristics of an emerging leader, this is the most important. An employee at any level who desires to lead will accept challenges, new experiences meant to stretch them, training, promotions, and even relocation.

When you spot an emerging leader, ask the famous question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Inevitably, getting to their goal will take training and coaching. Help them to get there! Your organization will be stronger for it!

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