How to Identify the Future Leaders of Your Company

A question that often comes up for business owners is how to identify future leaders for their business. The need shows up in various ways, but the way to address it is often more art than science. On Episode 135 of the Lead From Anywhere podcast, I shared insights into how I identify future leaders without adding any extra work to my plate.

How to Identify Future Leaders – Listen Now!

The Challenge of Identifying a Future Leader

The challenge of identifying a future leader can show up for a business leader in many scenarios, for example:

  • the company is growing and you can’t continue to lead all of the areas you’re currently leading
  • maybe someone is retiring or resigning from your company (and that can include you own self)
  • maybe you have realized you’re not a good leader in a certain area of the company, and you need help there

Bottom line, there are many reasons why it becomes important to know how to identify future leaders in your company.

Great leaders get really good at predicting the need for a new leader, identifying that person, and timing the leadership development of that person so that when it’s time for them to lead, that person is ready.

And here’s where I interject: Yes, ideally leaders are always developing the next leader. But in the real world, it doesn’t always happen that way. Especially if you’re the business owner of the company.

So how does a leader identify future leaders in the company? Well, I’m going to assume that the potential leader performs well at their current job. That’s the first box to check. But then beyond that, there are a few ways to identify future leaders.

Four Ways to Identify Future Leaders

The first way I identify future leaders at my company is, wait for it….my gut instinct. If you have a STRONG gut instinct that someone on your team could be a leader for your company, pay attention to that instinct. That person might be working in an entry-level position. That person might be part-time. They may also say they don’t want to be a leader. But if your gut instinct is that that person is a leader – don’t discount it. Because if your gut instincts are anything like mine – they are rarely wrong.

The second way you can identify future leaders is by who you refer employees to when they have questions. In my business, when an employee asks me a question, I find myself referring them to another employee for the answer quite a bit. Or I may answer the question but then say, “Check with so and so about that.” I do that all the time because I know that other employee is the expert on that question. THAT person, that employee you send other employees to for an answer…that person can most likely be a future leader in your company.

The third way you and I can identify future leaders at our companies is by how the rest of the team interacts with that future leader. Is there one person who other staff members seem to naturally turn to for help and guidance? Is there an employee who is willing to show someone the ropes, or train a new team member, without being asked? That employee might be your next leader, the one people go to for answers, guidance, or to run an idea by, before they bring that idea to you.

The final way to help you identify future leaders in your company is the people who are willing to push back on YOU, the big boss, the founder of the business. A leader has to be able to stand up for their strategies and ideas. If one of your employees is willing to push back on one of your big ideas, you most likely have a leader there.

Identifying Future Leaders

There are other ways to identify future leaders. Scientifically, there are assessments (which I love), working with consultants, or giving people leadership jobs before they’re officially named a leader and testing them out. I will use these methods more to CONFIRM what I’ve already noticed. But for the most part, to identify the future leaders in your company, you really only need to do one thing: Observe.

Observe those four elements that I mentioned…your gut instincts, who you send employees to with questions you can’t answer, who employees naturally gravitate to for guidance, and who is willing to push back on some of YOUR ideas. If you have a team member or employee who checks those four boxes, its most likely that you’ve already found your person.

And then it becomes your job to develop them into leaders.