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Leaders: How to Spot Them & When to Train Them

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A few weeks ago, I had written about the increasing importance of soft skills and that having a capacity for learning was perhaps the greatest among those. Ranking a close second is the ability to lead. What I’ve learned running a company, recruiting for others, and in conducting research about the workplace, good leaders are not only critical to moving the business mission forward, but they also have a direct impact on a company’s talent management strategy.


Our workplace research finds that the number one soft skill workers want from managers is leadership. Further, employees who view their immediate manager as a positive leader tend to be more company loyal, satisfied with their job, engaged at work, and less of a flight risk.

What makes a potential leader?

I’m always on the lookout for leadership tendencies among my employees and in the individuals I’m considering for our team. Here are some characteristics that move the Potential Leader needle for me:

  • Big-picture thinking and an ability to connect business opportunity dots

  • Team building and collaboration fostering

  • Ability to roll with the punches and pivot

  • Propensity for active learning and a willingness to ideate and try new approaches

  • Striving for excellence and continuously honing one’s craft

  • Ability to listen to others while also captivating listeners

  • Inclination for communicating in a way that rallies others around big ideas or project minutiae

  • Predisposition for natural coaching and magnetic cheerleading, bringing out the best in others

Training & development

Sometimes companies wait to train workers in leadership once they ascend to a management role. I’ve come to believe that employees with leadership tendencies, once spotted, should be exposed to training and grooming as soon as possible. Proactive training and development ensure the organization has a funnel of high potential talent ready to take the helm once an opportunity presents itself. If you are thinking about implementing a training program for your leaders but don’t know where to begin, click here for some tips gleaned from what we learned developing our own internal formalized approach to employee training.How do you spot high potential employees that would make a great leader? What training approaches have worked for your company – both formal and informal?