10 signs of leadership potential (and how to nurture it)

 | Leadership|Teams
Two professional women engaging in a discussion

All businesses need great leaders. And if you’re thinking about who comes next, the good news is you might not need to look too far. Your next-gen leaders could be hiding in plain sight within your team!

If they are, it’s a win. Not only does promoting internally save time and resources and make for an easy transition, but it also boosts engagement and loyalty and helps you build a strong succession pipeline.

According to a one Gallup study,10% of the population are natural leaders, and another 20% possess leadership traits that can be nurtured.

But what do you need to look for? Here are some of the key signs of leadership potential—plus what to do when you spot them.

1. They’re highly engaged

 Do you have a team member who shows initiative, has a positive attitude, a strong work ethic, prioritises company goals and shows commitment and passion in their role and every project they’re involved in?

These positive attributes benefit their individual success and contribute to their ability to lead and inspire others.

2. They’re confident but not arrogant

Great leaders are confident—a sureness that’s shown in several ways.

Body language is one. They maintain eye contact, stand tall and use expressive gestures. They’re also confident in their abilities and good at making decisions but open to ideas and feedback.

Importantly, you don’t have to be loud and extroverted to be confident. So don’t overlook those more quietly confident team members.

3. They’re a good communicator

Leaders spend a lot of time communicating. So if someone in your team is great at sharing their ideas clearly and concisely, loves presentations, can talk to anyone (at any level), is a good listener and is open to feedback, you might just have a potential leader in your midst.

4. They build positive work relationships

People who other people like to be around make the best colleagues and leaders.

Is there someone with that easy, friendly demeanour everyone gets along with? Someone who enjoys working in a team and is great at it? Someone who is good at managing conflict and helps their peers? Pay attention.

5. They’re self-aware with strong EI

People with a strong sense of self-awareness and high emotional intelligence (EI) are attuned to their emotions and strengths and know where to improve. They’re also better able to understand the emotions of others.

This ability makes them better able to navigate challenges, make informed decisions, and build authentic connections—all skills you want in a leader.

Related: Success by heart – Emotional Intelligence for Leaders

6. They look for opportunities to learn

The best leaders know they don’t know everything, and there’s always something new for them to learn. If someone in your team is an eager beaver when it comes to training and development, it’s a great sign.

Similarly, if they try to figure things out and problem-solve before asking for help, they could have what it takes.

7. They’re okay with failure

Effective leaders are open to failure and view it as a natural part of the learning and growth process. In other words, they don’t give up when things go wrong. Instead, they see it as an opportunity to grow. 

Being open to failure means being more willing to take risks, innovate, and try new things. You don’t know if you don’t try is an attitude and mindset to look for.

8. They’re great multitaskers (and delegators)

Those at the helm are often juggling many balls. For this, they need to be good at time management, able to prioritise the most important tasks first and stay calm under pressure. Anyone spring to mind?

On top of this, they know how to delegate. They need to trust their fellow team members to take on responsibilities so they don’t have to do it all.

Related: Mastering the art of delegation in leadership (insights and tips)

9. They adapt well to change

Adapting seamlessly to change is another hallmark of a future leader.

Individuals who easily navigate shifts in strategy, unexpected challenges, and new projects demonstrate the resilience and agility essential in leadership.

10. They naturally assume the role of leader

Is there someone that naturally takes charge, rallies the team, and gets things done? That’s a sign of leadership potential right there. These people don’t wait for someone to appoint them; they step up, lead discussions, and inspire others.

It’s not about a title; it’s about having that instinct to guide and influence in a way that makes everyone around them feel confident and ready to tackle challenges together.


Spotted potential? What next?

Now you know some of the signs, how many future leaders are hidden in your team? It may not be obvious straight away, but start paying attention.

Once you’ve pinpointed the talent, don’t let it go to waste. By nurturing the leadership skills of these team members, you can bring these buds into full bloom.

Here are some suggestions to cultivate that latent potential:

  • Give them more responsibilities and provide them with growth opportunities so they can step up to a leadership position, for example, challenging projects or assignments. And encourage cross-functional team participation.
  • Invest in professional development, such as training programs, courses and workshops designed to develop their leadership qualities. Emerging leadership programs are great!
  • Provide constructive feedback on their performance, highlighting areas of strength and areas for improvement. Plus, recognise and celebrate their achievements, reinforcing a positive and supportive environment.
  • Match them up with coaches and mentors in your business who they can learn from. They can provide guidance on all aspects of leadership and help keep them accountable.
  • Encourage networking opportunities to build confidence, expose them to diverse perspectives, help them grow a professional network, and improve their communication skills.

Related: The importance of leadership development in the workplace

Need support developing the next-gen leaders in your business?  Get in touch to learn more about our emerging leader workshops.

Contact the Seed People Consulting team to discuss how we can support developing your diverse culture today!

Meet the author: Julia Fiore

A born and bred Novocastrian, Jules started her career in retail and customer-facing roles. This built her love for people and customer service. After moving to the UK at 21 and ‘falling’ into HR, she climbed the early ranks to HR Advisor before returning home to Aus.

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