how to identify your future leaders

What are the characteristics of good leaders, and how can HR managers identify and harness these attributes in individuals with potential?

Leadership traits

The tone and style of an organisation’s leadership influences its culture and values, and is mirrored at all levels. Honesty and integrity are by far the most important characteristics a future leader requires, leading the list of leadership traits Australians cited in the Randstad Employer Brand Research 2014 employer branding research.

Other key traits of future leaders include:

  • Fairness – treating everyone equally and on merit, and keeping promises
  • Being positive – focusing on the right way of doing things, rather than simply condemning the wrong way
  • Listening to others’ opinions
  • Making decisions – even if the decision is to do nothing
  • Leading by example – rolling up their sleeves and working as hard or harder than everyone else, and with more determination
  • Showing calm in a crisis, not ranting and raving
  • Taking responsibility for their failings and mistakes
  • Directing praise and reward to their team and not taking credit alone for success
  • Appreciating their organisation’s social and corporate responsibilities (the triple bottom line), as well as its need to make profit

Succession planning

Succession planning is an ongoing process that is essential if you're going to meet ever-changing business needs. Equally, your organisation also needs to stay abreast of how changes will affect your future leaders’ skills.

Once you have identified potential leaders and senior managers, you can develop practical, relevant work experience to prepare these employees for key roles.

Here are some areas to focus on:

  • Identify and develop groups of jobs or roles to find potential successors
  • Cluster jobs by role, function and level to establish the generic skills required
  • Train potential leaders to fulfil a number of roles

You should also consider the advantages of bringing outside talent, with new ideas and approaches, into your organisation. Although there is no clear consensus on the ideal proportion of insiders/outsiders, a good balance is a ratio of 80:20.

Developing a pipeline of potential successors who can fill a variety of roles allows you to be more dynamic, innovative and have the agility to grasp new opportunities quickly. It may also boost a faltering or stagnant organisation.

While succession planning can help retain staff by providing clear career progression and an aspiration to be selected for the fast-track leadership route, the corollary may be that some talented people who are not chosen take their talent elsewhere.

If you’re looking for your next leader, a Randstad recruitment consultant can help connect you. Randstad’s HR consulting specialists can also advise on success profiling, high potential identification, succession management and leadership development programs.

For further insights on strategic talent management, visit the Randstad knowledge centre, workforce360.

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