Spotting Leadership Potential

October 31, 2017

‘When opportunity knocks, will you answer the door….AND hold it open for others?
John C Maxwell

‘Who me?’… ‘Are you sure?’…. ‘Gosh I hadn’t really considered it’

Thinking back over your career were you always aware of your leadership potential?

Or did someone see the possibility for you long before you did?

For many of us, we were fortunate enough to have someone – be it a former boss, colleague or mentor – who played an instrumental role in guiding and encouraging us along the path long before we believed it was possible for ourselves.

They were the leaders who pushed us to develop new skills, provided fresh opportunities that challenged us to think and act in different ways. They helped us raise not only the belief that we had in ourselves but what others had in us. They coached and advocated for us with the purpose of seeing us step up and into our potential.

In an era where we have heard much about the ‘war for talent’, spotting potential has become a critical factor in business success. Unfortunately though spotting potential is far harder than simply measuring competence. It makes sense then that those leaders, who can not only identify potential but also foster and develop it, will achieve more success both for themselves and the people they lead.

With statistics suggesting that as much as 70% of on the job learning occurs informally, it is imperative that leaders learn how to harness this potential through their own actions and the role that they play.  But how do you help someone embrace their potential when they can’t see it for themselves?  Below are five practical ways you can help people see what is possible and to share what you see in them.

  1. Tell Them! All too often we don’t create the time to have the conversation in a meaningful way. Set the meeting up with the sole purpose of telling them what you see in them, exploring how they feel about it and what they need to grow their own confidence and belief.
  2. Validate Your Case: Be prepared to tell them why you believe in their potential. Offer specific examples of what you have seen or heard and how that skill, attitude or attribute is a much-admired trait of successful leaders.
  3. Provide Challenge: Emerging leaders need to be developed. They need opportunities to expand their knowledge and skillsets, work with stakeholders at varying levels and operate at higher levels of responsibility. When individuals achieve things they didn’t previously think possible it expands their thinking and confidence to embrace further opportunities.
  4. Check in! Offer feedback and encouragement and don’t hesitate to offer constructive criticism as they take on new challenges. It is also important to make sure that what we see as their potential is aligned with what they want and they are experiencing not only higher levels of accomplishment but also fulfillment.
  5. Open Doors: True leaders open the doors of opportunity for others. Not just any door but ones that lead to growth, align skills and leverage strengths and ultimately build ownership.

Cultivating potential and opening doors for others is a win-win. Leaders who believe in and sponsor others help create success and momentum not only for the individual but also for themselves and the business they lead.

Not everyone will understand your belief in their potential or want to take up the opportunity, however if you are willing to call it many will respond with enthusiasm and gratitude.

So who can you encourage into leadership today?

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Margot Andersen