In my experience more and more companies are reporting an urgent need to develop employees with leadership potential. This is alarming because, as more boomers retire, and Millennials move into management roles, today’s companies just aren’t prepared to meet the demands with leadership in their pipelines.

As an employer, leadership development is crucial for your organisation and is a key aspect of management that all employers must engage in. Without effective leadership development practices in place, your organisation may well be facing an uncertain future, as key skills are lost, and invaluable experience fails to be shared and passed on. Organisations realise the significant value of their high potentials. They know that getting the right people, with the right capabilities, in the right places, is crucial to the health and growth of the company. Critical talent is a major competitive weapon [1].

But, with some reports indicating that potential leaders are in short supply at present, it would appear that these leaders need to be groomed as opposed to plucked.

The demands, expectations, and pressure placed on the leaders of the future will only increase, making the need for leadership development all the more important.

What Are You Looking For in Your Future Leaders?

When you set out to identify future leaders to move your company forward, do you know what to look for? Could you easily identify what each of their futures holds?

Managers consider employee problem-solving, engagement, career aspiration and performance when making judgments about employees’ leadership potential.

7 Key Characteristics Important in Future Leaders

  1. Communication

According to Forbes, “success as a leader requires a natural ability to engage with others”, so one way to spot the natural leaders within your organisation is to pay attention to how people communicate. Is there one person that people often go to for advice or assistance? They could be pointing you towards a potential leader.

  1. Motivation

Some employees are so motivated that their motivation is infectious, and they tend to inspire others.  These are the types of employees who should be short-listed for leadership positions.

  1. Empathy

Does the potential leader help others? Place others before themselves? Give others credit? Do they take time to develop relationships and interact with other employees? Is he or she “for the team”? The best leaders are able to listen to their employees, retain the information, and then offer thoughtful solutions.

  1. Learning Ability

Employees who give the impression that they know everything usually don’t.  If you value knowledge as a leadership quality, look instead at the employees who constantly go out of their way to learn new things. Many of the jobs today didn’t exist a decade ago. Organisations need leaders that can adapt to new technology and other external forces.

Also, look for leaders who will develop others. They will show interest in coaching, mentoring, and making others better. This is what you want to see in future leaders — a growth mindset of developing talent in the organization. These leaders take the time to provide excellent feedback to others. They will empower others to achieve their goals, bringing out the best in people, and helping them develop.

  1. Initiative and Self-Direction

Do senior managers lounge around doing nothing? No. The same goes for aspiring leaders. They can do their job without too much hand-holding.

They have the ability to prioritise their tasks and complete them without the threat of pressure.  This ability to prioritise is important for leaders tasked with long-term company growth.

  1. Team Builders

A team’s diverse opinions, skill sets, and backgrounds don’t hinder a true leader. It’s an asset that lends agility to the group. As a result, employees love working with them.

  1. Commitment to The Company

While some employees just mind their own tasks and deadlines, committed employees go above and beyond — not just to look good, but out of genuine interest for the company’s future.

Center for Creative Leadership surveyed 199 high-potential employees and found that 95% of participants were committed to their organisation and 96% were motivated by their jobs [2].

Pay attention to employees who care about your organisation. They could be the future leaders of your company. Invest in their career and training, so they don’t leave in search of better opportunities.

Author Daniel Goleman says you should look for leaders who are driven to achieve beyond expectations–their own and everyone else’s. The first sign is a passion for the work itself. Such people, says Goleman, “seek out creative challenges, love to learn, and take great pride in a job well done. They also display an unflagging energy to do things better. They are also eager to explore new approaches to their work.”

At FP Training Ltd, we recommend creating in-house leadership development programs that single out so-called high-potential employees and put them through a development programme, including mentorships, management training, work-based projects, psychometric testing, 360-degree feedback and coaching. The goal is to elevate candidates above a single function and give them a broader vision of the company.

At FP Training we deliver a range of programmes that set out to recognise and develop your future leaders.

To find out more about these programmes visit our training services pages, contact us or call 01332 527144

Recent case study with East Midland Trains.


  1. AON Hewitt – Building the Right High Potential Pool
  2. Center for Creative Leadership – High-potential Talent A View from Inside the Leadership Pipeline