Most organisations have, at some point, promoted someone to leadership based on technical knowledge or excellence in delivering results, only to find that the newly appointed leader struggles to elicit a similar level of performance from their team. Clearly, being great at one thing doesn’t necessarily translate to being a strong leader.

There is the school of thought that argues leaders are born, not made. While that may be partly true, it’s also possible to unlock leadership potential in most people, given the right circumstances and approach. There are various strategies for developing strong leaders; the right one depends on the type of organisation and the type of leader who will succeed in that organisation’s culture.

Leadership in the digital age is complex. Leaders must cope with all the traditional challenges that working with individuals has always presented, along with managing through many different communication channels and information sources.

Regardless of the changing environment, effective leadership remains crucial to a business’s ability to achieve staff engagement and maintain high performance levels. Ongoing feedback can help determined leaders understand where they’re doing well and how they can improve.

To develop a strong leadership pipeline, businesses should identify leadership candidates as early as possible, then develop a path for these candidates to maximise their chances of success.

4 key characteristics that can help determine if someone is likely to develop into a strong leader

  1. Good judgement

    A good leader gathers as much information as possible to make the best possible decisions. They also gather the right people around them through a focus on solid recruitment strategies so that, especially in times of crisis they can respond in the right way.

  2. Inclusive leadership

    Great leaders understand people and what drives them, and they respect difference in teams, building diverse teams to strength overall performance.

  3. Truly listening

    How often are they truly listening and considering others views as equally important? Leaders acknowledge that there are alternative views and actively draw them out to ensure they aren’t missing an important perspective.

  4. Talent sponsorship

    Great leaders make developing and promoting people to succeed them their legacy. They focus on talent performance and then beyond that to sponsorship of their people into new roles and experiences.

5 ways managers can begin to develop potential leaders into true leaders

  1. Challenge and trust

    Leaders thrive on being given a challenge and being allowed to determine how to respond to that challenge.

  2. Expose and enlighten

    Giving leaders insight into different departments and roles can help highlight their strengths and give them empathy for others in the organisation. It also gives them knowledge to make decisions more effectively.

  3. Coach, mentor and sponsor

    Offering mentorship to a potential leader is a nurturing and supportive way to develop their skills. It gives them a sounding board and access to someone with experience who can help them gather critical skills. Sponsorship into leadership experiences will extend their development opportunities.

  4. Educate and evaluate

    It goes without saying that leadership development training helps develop leadership skills. Education should be bolstered by evaluation so the leadership candidate can understand what they’re doing well and where they can improve.

  5. Ask and listen

    Ask leaders questions that take them outside their comfort zone. Then listen carefully to understand their current knowledge and perception. This makes it possible to develop a useful plan for their development.

One of the clearest barometers for a leader’s success in an organisation is how their colleagues perceive them. Conducting regular surveys such as 360-degree reviews and pulse surveys can help elicit the right information so managers can continue to develop the leadership candidate in the right areas, drawing on their strengths and improving their weaknesses.