Considering Future Leaders

As your practice grows, and as you and your original partners take on more of an oversight role, you’re going to need another crop of leaders to assume managerial roles. But handing over responsibilities to others is never easy. How can you tell who among your younger employees has the spark, and the drive, to inherit the mantle of leadership?

Here are four questions to ask yourself when evaluating individual staff members for their leadership potential.

How do they work with others? Beyond mere collegiality, look for people who influence their peers when it comes to solving a problem or approaching an issue in a new way. Management experts note that natural leaders tend to influence others by building relationships rather than relying solely on authority or organizational hierarchy.[1] 

How do they measure success? If their competitive nature means they think mainly about their own results or tend to hog the spotlight, your top revenue producer may not automatically be the person to lead a department. While personal performance can be a powerful example, the best managers spread credit around and define personal success by how well the members of their team perform, both individually and collectively.

Do they own up? One of the best ways to gauge leadership potential is seeing how employees react to adversity and failure. Do they accept responsibility and look for ways to avoid repeating the error? Or do they try to blame the failure on other departments or other members of the team? Future leaders are those who openly acknowledge, and stand accountable for, failures.

Do they really want it? Beyond skills and character, look for the desire to lead. According to a 2014 CareerBuilder study, only 34% of workers seek leadership roles, and only 7% aspire to top management. Among the two-thirds who are content to be led rather than lead, more than half said they like their current role, while a third feared loss of work-life balance.[2] Rather than expending energy grooming a talented young worker who has no desire to lead, look for those who seek to manage projects or respond enthusiastically when faced with additional responsibilities.

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