For centuries, people have debated whether leaders are born or made. From my experience in different leadership roles, it is a mixture of both. Leadership quality is essentially an inherent characteristic in some people, which needs proper cultivation in order to develop them into future leaders.
One can consider leadership an apprentice trade, since leaders learn about 80 per cent of their craft on the job. An effective leader would always look for opportunities to take charge of responsibilities independently with a minimum of handholding so that they can build their competitive advantage. Employees with leadership traits are smart enough to analyse their individual strength and their team’s collective strengths, combining the two in a productive manner.
As potential leaders of their organizations, high-potential employees should be identified early and developed effectively. The demand for leaders rapidly outpaces the supply, meaning that organizations must actively identify and invest in people with the potential to fill critical leadership roles.
To be successful in the long term, organizations must have an effective leadership development program in place, one which has a strong focus on hiring strategies, employee development, training programs and succession planning. Building and retaining good leadership is a major area of concern for all organizations today. Senior managers should take up the responsibility of assessing performance and identifying the training needs and competencies of potential leaders in the company. Identifying potential leadership is a constant process; a good manager should ensure that the best and brightest employees are identified as early as possible and placed on the fast track for advancement. It is important that employees are given adequate opportunities to take charge of important organizational activities.
As companies step up their efforts to identify the star performers in the organization, it is important to look for some telling qualities that suggest an employee has the capacity to lead other employees.
A potential leader will never shy away from taking up challenges or spearheading an initiative, and he or she has a proactive outlook on work. Such an employee will not wait for the managers to delegate work; instead, they will always look for opportunities to prove themselves and learn something new. Humanity is one of the most essential qualities of a potential leader, as he needs to care about the well being of his team. For this, he needs to be a good observer and listener too. To be an efficient leader, one has to follow the 80-20 principle, i.e., listen to the team 80% of the time and talk and act accordingly during the remaining 20%. Managers therefore need to check if the person is socially active, works well with others, and understands the importance of teamwork. A potential leader will never be afraid of changes, and will be willing to learn new things while unlearning the old.
Now the question arises: how can one identify these potential leaders? To identify and cultivate employees with the potential to grow into business-critical leadership roles, it is important to put them in assessment centers. Psychological and behavioral assessments that are typically offered through assessment centers have been statistically linked to current and future success in leadership roles. Performance Management Review holds significant value in identifying potential leaders internally in the organization, as managers can assess the competencies and performance of potential leaders. 360-degree feedback, shared internally, gives a lot of scope to understand how an individual receives feedback and works on it. An employee who aspires to be a future leader will take feedback in the positive spirit it is intended, as he is always willing to learn from his mistakes.
Developing leadership capabilities internally through on the job training, special mentoring and coaching is becoming increasingly popular in organizations today. As a manager, it is your responsibility to identify talent and support its growth. It is a part of your responsibility to identify people with potential who can take over your role when you progress to the next level. One way to ensure the consistent flow of leadership talent in a company is to recruit the right people in the first place. Interviewing alone may not be sufficient to distinguish the best candidates. Companies are stressing an assessment centre approach so that they can have a clear roadmap for determining the benchmark for candidates to qualify as future leaders.
Succession planning is a litmus test for HR today. As organizations are likely to go through transition periods in the future, it is the responsibility of the leader to make intelligent decisions and drive the business forward. One of the key advantages of developing leaders internally is that they achieve productivity almost 50 per cent faster than external candidates. They typically have a clear vision of the organizational structure and business goals. Promoting leadership development to lower levels of the organization also has a positive impact on morale, and therefore assists in employee retention. Organizations need to identify quality talent in time before the well-performing candidates slip away. The test of a good leader lies in cultivating the next line of succession and ensuring that they move up the corporate ladder.