emerging leadersGrowing a successful business organization is an ongoing endeavor. It takes solid leadership to ensure sustained, long term health and profitability.  Yet in the current global environment, we are experiencing a leadership void.   And it is inching toward crisis status.  Leadership development takes time to recruit, educate and place in appropriate positions within the company.

As a business owner, you have known that your best bet for success is making time to work on your business, not in your business.  Adding leadership and management capabilities allow you to delegate the work responsibilities and provide you with more time to plan future business development.  When looking for individuals to step into leadership roles, consider the following 5 questions.  These provide you with advice for building a successful leadership team.

5 Questions business owners should ponder when choosing emerging leaders:

Where do I find leadership talent?

Leadership talent is becoming a premium for our business owners and executives.  When searching for emerging leaders whose talent you can cultivate, consider the individuals who are proactive, thoughtful, and reliable in the work productivity.  These individuals work well with others, and have people skills that complement their skills, knowledge and abilities.  Look beyond the people with academic degrees.  These individuals create impact through their work and are the ones whom others seek out for help and who others continuously rely on.  Look for individuals who have transferable skills that can be applied to different contexts.  Emerging leaders are continuous learners who can be found in private, public and nonprofit sectors but are willing to adapt to new situations.

What quality traits do I look for when selecting leadership candidates?

As a business owner or entrepreneur, you have created a unique brand for your business, which more than likely is a reflection of you—to some extent.  The vision and energy to build that successful brand is not easily replaced.  Appropriate skill sets are easier to find than appropriate attitudes.  Leadership candidates must demonstrate that they have a combination of energy, resilience, fortitude, tenacity and humility.  Who should be a leader?  First and foremost, someone who cares about the development of the organization’s people.  And, someone who is focused on solutions and unaccepting of stalled expectations.  Someone who competes to win, but willing to learn from any failures along the way.

When considering leadership candidates, look for fresh thinking and fresh problem-solving approaches, new models and innovation.

How do I mentor and educate emerging leaders?

Individuals learn best through hands-on experience.  Research indicates the 70% of professional development is acquired through on-the-job training, 20%through exposure to new ideas and contests, and 10% formal education.  As you work with emerging leaders, allow them to experience the many different roles found throughout the organization.  Mentoring is an ongoing process that allows the individual to develop skills, attitudes and aptitudes that contribute to developing a leadership style.  Check out this blog post on creating a professional development plan that will be useful when working with your mentees.

What do I teach emerging leaders?

When teaching emerging leaders, people often try to use a one-size fits all approach rather than identifying and amplifying the strengths each individual brings to the table. The results of this cookie-cutter strategy are abysmal and unmotivating.  This approach also is risky, especially when the success of your organization is on the line.  Although the effort upfront is greater, content and delivery must be customized so that there is a true fit with the organizational culture, mission, goals, and workplace personalities.  We also know that workplace success is based on 15% technical skills and 85% people skills.  Consider these percentages when identifying the content of the mentoring process.  Here are examples of leadership development topics:

  • Master core business strategizing skills
  • Build organizational and team management skills
  • Improve your collaboration and presentation skills
  • Design and implement a project that solves an organizational issue
  • Create a personal leadership development plan
  • Learn to expand professional and personal networks

How do I evaluate the emerging leaders’ performance?

Offering leadership development in a vacuum, without demanding or expecting any tangible results, will produce poor results.  In business, what gets measured gets done, and so if leadership development efforts are not measured and held accountable, the process will not be taken seriously and will be ineffective.  To establish a rubric for measuring performance does not need to be complicated.  An effective approach can include having the individual journal the experience and answer the following questions:

  • Outline what was planned to occur.
  • Describe what actually occurred in detail.
  • What needs to be improved?
  • What are the next steps?

Developing the next generation of leaders takes time, purposeful effort, and patience.  Knowing what leadership capabilities are needed is essential.  Start the process before there is an imperative need.   The predictions for talent acquisition indicates that there will be a shortage of individuals who will be available to join the workforce.  Because of this trend, it will be necessary for business owners to grow and educate the next generation of leaders.  The very future of your organization is at stake.  Developing emerging leaders requires both your investment and your insight.

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