How to Identify Leaders among Your Staff

Innovation can’t thrive without leadership. Innovation leadership is emerging as a primary need of today’s businesses.

Woman wearing a hard hat at a construction site.
Does your present team contain potential innovation leadership? It’s likely if you take time to identify them.

It isn’t enough to have an outstanding leadership team today. You have to think ahead to the leaders your organization will have in the future. Finding leaders from within the organization has many advantages over searching for leadership from outside. To develop tomorrow’s leaders, you have to be able to identify people among your staff with the right potential. Here are people to watch for and invest in to ensure continuity of innovative leadership.

People Who Are Curious

According to an XBInsight study, tomorrow’s innovation leaders show curiosity today. Who on your team demonstrates an innate desire to know more about things that others may find mundane? Curiosity and engagement are closely linked and are qualities that help companies reach their goals. Encourage those who are curious, and learn what their skills are so you can identify skills gaps and help them fulfill their potential.

Those Who Know How to Manage Risk

Managing risk means striking a balance. People who are completely risk-averse may excel currently, but they’re less likely to embrace innovation – including innovations that could make them more productive or effective. Conversely, people who are too open to risk can leave a trail of failures behind them and waste company resources. Look for people who understand reasonable risk and risk mitigation, and who are quick to recognize worthwhile risks.

Employees Who Already Lead within Their Context

You don’t have to have a prestigious job title to lead well. You may find people within any department who demonstrate leadership initiative within their current roles. These are the people who will take the initiative to show the new person around, or who aren’t afraid of doing the less-fun tasks because they know it advances their team toward its goals. Employees who are willing to reach out to others and put themselves “out there” are people who may become excellent leaders.

Two colleagues looking at a desktop computer together.
Some people naturally lead within the context of their normal responsibilities. They may eventually be ready for greater leadership roles.

Workers Who Seize Opportunities

These people are likely to jump right in when your company launches innovation initiatives. They may contribute ideas or offer to be on the idea evaluation team. Outside the context of innovation initiatives, they may strive to keep up with industry trends and competitors, ready to recognize new directions and communicate their findings to their team leaders or managers. 

People Who Communicate and Listen Well

Communication is multidirectional. Good communicators not only speak and write well, but they also know the importance of listening. People who have a knack for explaining complex topics to people who are unfamiliar and who listen to others’ feedback demonstrate one of the most important qualities of leadership: great communication. Don’t confuse great communication with having the loudest voice. Some of your best communicators may be content to stay in the background, even when sharing information or learning new things.

Those Who Demonstrate Excellence

Finally, tomorrow’s leadership should be made up of people who demonstrate excellence at whatever their job is right now. Strong leadership requires consistent demonstration of excellence, and people who have a history of it will have an easier time doing so at greater levels of responsibility. 

Innovation leadership typically starts within an organization. Outstanding leaders may come from any background or department, and tomorrow’s leaders should be identified and prepared today. It’s not easy to build a great team of leaders, but if you start now by identifying potential leaders among your existing staff, you’ll have an easier time developing a plan for leadership succession so you can remain innovative over the long term. 

If you are interested in ways to improve employee engagement and help individuals develop their strengths, we invite you to download our publication titled Creative Rewards to Incentivize Engagement.

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