Ask Your Key Employee If They Want to Lead

A lot of leaders, especially business founders and owners, struggle with knowing how to nurture and grow leaders within their companies. They will often have a key employee with whom they have had casual conversations about leadership, but have not formalized a plan. In this episode of the Lead From Anywhere podcast, I discuss the first step in bringing up new leaders in your team or organization – asking them if they want to lead.

Ask If They Want to Lead – Bringing Up Leaders – Listen Now!

Before You Ask Your Employee If They Want to Lead

I’m going to dive into one thing you can do to bring your next generation of leaders along, but I do want to mention that there is a theme to all of this. Leaders emulate their leaders – they copy their leader’s leadership style. So if you’re ready to help a key employee transform into a leader, the first thing to ask yourself is if your own leadership style has been in line with the culture and core values of your organization. If it is not, that’s the first place to start. Make sure you are a leader you’d want your team to follow.

I’m also assuming you have some opportunities that need a leader – you don’t want to ask people to step up as a leader if you don’t have any initiatives that need one at the moment!

How to Find Out If Your Employee Wants to Lead

ASK the employee if they want to lead, or to be a leader, on the team. Just ask them and get their response.

Before you ask them, I would suggest having some examples to share of what this looks like on the team. Really sharing what it means – that leadership is much more than managing work. It includes that, along with an additional level of accountability, but it also includes becoming a culture caretaker, and caring about the people who do the work.

After You Ask Your Employee If They Want to Lead

The key employee may ask you if this includes a promotion or a raise, which is really up to you to answer. I know in my business, and in a lot of other small businesses, there is an element of “proving” that goes into this before that employee would get a promotion.

For example, they might be called upon to lead ongoing meetings, or lead a project, or take full responsibility and accountability for a goal to be met. Something that lets me see how they approach leadership. More than anything, it’s to show you that they actually do want to lead – that they aren’t just say “yes” for another reason, like a promotion or raise, or to make me happy, or something else.

I’ve also found that the best leaders aren’t motivated by title, so if you get someone to lead without taking on a leadership title, that’s an indication you have a potentially great leader on your hands.

That element of “proof” can be included in your answers to their questions when you first discuss this idea with them.

I would also suggest including a timeline in your answers – what will they be leading and for how long? If they are interested in promotions or raises, definitely have an idea of what you would need to see before giving those, and communicate that with the employee.

But really – the outcome that you are looking for here is knowing if your key employee is truly interested in a leadership role. You may have had informal conversations with them in the past about being a leader. But taking this step to ask them if they want to move forward with leadership makes it a more formal plan.

At the end of the day, transforming a key employee into a leader starts with one thing – that key employee wanting to be a leader.

And the best way to start that conversation is to ask them!