One of the most valuable assets of any business is its people; and one of the most valuable traits of good leaders is an ability to recognise tomorrow’s leaders today. This is vital to any company’s long-term success.

An organisation, no matter what its size, needs to put a structured plan in place for leadership continuity. For that to happen, it has to hone in on individuals who possess the necessary potential. This is an ongoing task, and should be a large focus of an organisation’s growth strategy.

Why is it important?

Leaders are change agents who play a transformational role in an organisation’s efforts to overcome market challenges. If your company faces a leadership vacuum at any point in time, it may be unable to achieve its growth targets.

To demonstrate your commitment toward innovation, and high-quality products and services, you need to find leaders who have the authority and credibility to push the workforce to meet these goal.

It’s essential that these individuals are found inside your organisation, because employees are well versed in the processes, systems, company structure and work culture already in place. They are also aware of the strengths—and, more importantly, weaknesses. This should enable them to make better and more informed growth-oriented decisions.

Let’s face it: The root of every successful business is timely decision-making. If you don’t have the leaders to make these calls, your business will flounder.

How do you go about identifying these people from within your business?

  1. Focus On High Potential—Not Performance

Employee performance defines ability and expertise. While this must be kept in mind when choosing your future leaders, you also have to look beyond. For instance, pay attention to the person’s aptitude, desire to grow and overall potential.

Some individuals aren’t cut out to be leaders, even if their performance is at the higher end of the scale. They don’t have the capacity to play that role and are content to be followers. This is why potential should always outweigh performance as a parameter.

  1. Note the Level of Engagement

An individual must be invested in a business’s goals and should see his or her professional achievements through the achievement of company growth.

Look for an employee that proactively makes suggestions for process improvement, or shows an interest in going beyond his/her brief to achieve results for the business. These traits would be found in someone who has the makings of a future leader.

  1. Differentiate between Catalysts and Watchers

You’ll find two kinds of people in your business. Some who make things happen to take projects to their logical conclusion; and others who prefer to watch and wait for things before they are sucked into proceedings.

The former have “leader” written all over them. They facilitate project completion by becoming an integral part of the decision-making process.

  1. Look for Accountability

Employees who hold themselves answerable for failure can be identified as leaders. If you see individuals shying away from taking responsibility for their actions because it might reflect poorly on them, they don’t have what it takes. Leaders aren’t afraid to hold themselves accountable, even for failure.

  1. Observe Multitasking Abilities

If you think you’ve identified potential leaders among your workforce, give them a few extra responsibilities. Better yet, throw them in at the deep end and keep tabs on how they swim. Can they handle the additional assignments, or are they finding it difficult to multitask?

The answer to this question is important, because all leaders have to perform more than one duty at a time, and complete it to the best of their abilities.

  1. Check for Evidence of Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the individual a good team player?
  • Does he or she help others, or put others before themselves?
  • Does he or she take time to interact with other employees?
  • Does the employee focus on building personal relationships?
  • Is the employee a people person?

If the answer to these is an unequivocal yes, you know that you’ve identified a selfless individual who gives due weight to personal bonding. He or she has the ability to constructively use an understanding of people for the benefit of the business.

  1. Document Remarkable Communication Skills

All leaders have extraordinary the ability to communicate with others. If they want to get a particular point across to the people under their watch, they can to do it effortlessly. So, look for a person who has the ability to explain ideas in a clear and concise manner; somebody who deals with specifics and is a good listener.

If you’re lucky enough to identify an employee who has these qualities and more, you need to start prepping this person for a leadership role in your business.