Dig Deep: How to Find the Hidden Leadership Potential of Your Employees

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Behind every great leader is a team of professionals who first saw their potential. Managers and executives don’t suddenly gain leadership qualities when they become leaders. Rather, these traits and skills are within your employees at every level of the organization.

The 4 Signs of Leadership Potential

Certain indicators of leadership, like communication, confidence, and honesty, are easy to spot. Sometimes, however, you have to dig a little deeper to find those employees who have what it takes to be leaders in your organization. Let’s talk about some signs of hidden leadership potential you should look for:

1. Taking Initiative

While some employees require a little hand-holding, others take charge of their work and manage their time and tasks all on their own. These employees who can use their own expertise to evaluate the situation, determine a strategy, and execute on it independently have the potential to be not just good leaders, but great ones.

To find this trait in your team members, look at how your employees have developed since they started working at your organization. Employees with initiative tend to be self-driven; they often step outside of their assigned task loads to assist others and share ideas. They show confidence in their abilities and don’t require an excessive amount of validation or assistance in completing tasks. Another way to find employees with initiative is to look at their feedback requests. Someone who constantly looks for ways to improve their work is someone with initiative.

This trait is essential for any leader to have. Leaders often have to jump into tasks outside their normal responsibilities. Having the confidence and competence to do so is vital for any successful leader.

2. Exuding Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence, broadly defined as having the ability to comprehend and manage both your own emotions and the emotions of others, is a key leadership trait. Leaders who can stay calm and collected when dealing with stress? They have emotional intelligence. Leaders who pay attention to how their words and actions affect their team members? They have emotional intelligence.

This trait may be one of the more challenging qualities to identify in your employees, but the best way to find it is by looking at how they respond to challenging situations. Do they rise to the occasion? Do they help their team members remain focused even when things get tough? Then they probably have emotional intelligence.

3. Holding Oneself — and One’s Colleagues — Accountable

In our current remote work environment, accountability is more crucial to the success of your organization than ever. When working from home, it can be all too easy for employees to lose motivation and succumb to distraction. Employees who hold themselves and their teammates accountable ensure that work gets down, productivity stays high, and the company culture continues to thrive.

Look for those employees who stay on top of their work, keep their teams updated on their progress, and — most importantly — maintain a positive attitude no matter what they’re dealing with. It is important to note these traits often come from the top of the organization and trickle down to employees. We leaders need to foster a culture of motivation and accountability by holding ourselves accountable. Then, those traits will flourish within our team members, too. If we don’t hold ourselves accountable, how can we expect our employees to?

4. Embodying Fearlessness

Every employee will fail at some point in their career, but those employees with leadership potential will see their failures as opportunities to learn and grow into stronger employees.

Finding your fearless employees is not about looking at the number of failures a person has had. Instead, it’s about looking at how they have responded to those failures. Fearless employees are risk-takers. They aren’t scared to be creative, think outside the box, and try new things. More importantly, they don’t give up when their new ideas don’t quite work out. Rather, they look for ways to do better next time.

As a leader yourself, you at one point — or many points — in your career had supervisors who saw your potential and invested their time in helping you become a leader. Now, it’s your turn to do the same for your employees.

Every member of your team has their own great qualities. Take the time to look carefully at each of your workers. Sure enough, you’ll find those who have the potential to be the next great leaders of your organization.

Matt Thomas is the president of WorkSmart Systems, Inc. 

By Matt Thomas