Too many companies limit leadership roles to those with demonstrated experience. However, that limits your company from choosing people who can grow into great leaders. It also risks dismissing qualified internal candidates, forcing them to seek employment elsewhere if they want to move into a leadership position. That reduces morale and increases turnover, as your ambitious top performers will feel they need to jump ship for better opportunities.
Also, if there is a talent gap in your industry, you may not be able to find (or afford) proven leaders. Because of this, you can identify the traits potential leaders possess, ones who show their ability to grow into a role, to promote from within to create new leaders. You can then develop leadership skills in these people and raise future leaders within your organization.
Traits Indicating Leadership Potential
Here are some traits that show that an employee might have the potential to move toward a leadership position:
Self-aware and effectively communicates. Leaders must be aware of their flaws to compensate for them or work on them. They also need to be effective communicators, which includes being effective listeners. Leaders must provide information in a clear manner.
Holds themselves accountable. The buck stops somewhere. Good leaders hold themselves accountable and take responsibility for their failures. That does not mean allowing failure to damage their confidence, but instead learning from it and admitting to it so others can also learn.
Thinks in long-term plans. True leaders think six months, a year, or even further ahead. They don't let themselves get trapped in the weeds of minor, short-term stuff but focus on their overall vision.
Has intrinsic motivation. If somebody needs to be told what to do and when to do it and pulled along, they are probably not leadership material. A leader can motivate and challenge themselves without needing help from anyone else.
Works well within teams. A leader must be a team player. Somebody who only ever dictates from above tends to be unpopular with those under them and create teams that have conflict or are paralyzed by too much hierarchy. They are an intermediary between upper leadership and lower-level employees, and they must be able to provide optimal solutions for both.
Emotionally stable and confident. A leader needs to believe in themselves. They must have confidence, and they must admit to it. (Pretending to be humble is never a good look.) They also need to be emotionally stable, mature, and able to handle challenging situations ranging from mediating between team members to presenting criticism to dealing with a sudden crisis without losing their cool. They also need never to lose their temper with employees.
If some of your employees have these traits and they are interested in leadership positions, it is vital to start training them so they can grow, or they will leave you for somebody who will.
Traits to Avoid as Leaders
There are, of course, traits that cause a problem for somebody as a leader. These may be traits that mean they cannot stay in charge, or they may be the opposite. For example, an indecisive leader will not be able to get as much done and will reduce productivity in general. It is also hard for employees to respect them, which increases turnover.
A leader who lacks empathy can cause even worse problems, especially in the days of the internet. For example, expecting high productivity from somebody who recently suffered a bereavement will only elicit anger. Such people also tend to have poor conflict-resolution skills.
Another example of a bad trait is micromanaging. Micromanaging stems from a lack of trust in employees and a lack of confidence in the leader themselves. Micromanagers also often fail to delegate and end up burning themselves out.
Also, watch out for people who like to hear themselves talk too much. They are likely to make a long meeting about something which could easily have been an email, wasting everyone's time and annoying their team members.
One mistake some companies make is to pick the people who always come in early and stay late as leaders. Workaholic leaders have a habit of burning themselves out and making it harder for team members to set boundaries and rest. Working too much increases the risk of injuries and health problems and actually lowers productivity.
Grow Your Team with Quality Leadership
Leaders must exist for the team and the organization, not to realize their personal ambitions. Negative traits can harm your organization by wrecking your company culture, reducing productivity, increasing turnover, and negatively impacting your employer brand. Bad managers tend to be gossiped about, and not just inside your company.
Good leaders make for good workers. Most people who leave a job are leaving their boss, and many who stay do so for their boss. Investing in quality leadership is crucial for your organization. Identifying good internal candidates to prepare for leadership positions improves morale by showing your staff they don't have to leave to grow.
Whether you promote internally or hire, the most important thing is to choose the right leaders with the right traits, not necessarily the most experienced.