The Importance of Developing Future Leaders and How to Identify Them

12 July 2016

The challenging economy and the increased pace of modern business, thanks to global connectivity, has brought about a new era in business leadership.  Today’s CEOs are expected to overcome challenging financial hurdles and deliver better results at a faster rate, adding to the difficulty of their already demanding positions.

But, over and above the rigours of daily operation, much of the difficulty of modern business leadership lies in the fact that the reins of any company must be passed on at one point or another.  Knowing this, CEOs have to choose future leaders that will be able to cope with the stresses leading a company as well as be able to perpetuate the growth of the company when it comes time to pass the reins to yet another generation.

If companies want to avoid the pitfalls of poor leadership and a thinning talent pool, they must embrace the of future leaders, and do it sooner rather than later.

The Dangers of Bad Leadership

Last year gave us a few shining examples of good and bad CEOs.  Those that excelled and those that imploded gave current organisations a great deal of useful knowledge – most notably that good leadership is everything to the success of a company.

In 2015 the CEO of Intel, Brian Krzanich, did exactly what a good CEO should do; he broadened the future talent pool.  By making great moves to diversify Intel’s 100,000-strong global workforce, creating opportunities for minorities and female workers, Krzanich made sure that Intel will be spoiled for choice when it comes time to elect new leaders.  And, as an added bonus, his efforts were a PR dream, highlighting the company’s affinity for equal rights.

On the other hand, Martin Winterkorn, the former CEO of Volkswagen, badly tarnished the reputation of the auto manufacturer by hiding data regarding vehicle emissions.  Winterkorn claimed to have no knowledge of this deceitful practice, which may or may not be true.  However, Winterkorn was well-known to publicly scold employees, which could well have led them to cover up data in order to avoid reprimand.  Whichever the case, Volkswagen’s crisis rests firmly on Winterkorn’s shoulders.


The Importance of Identifying Strong Future Leaders

When looking at the two ends of the spectrum, the need for strong, empathetic, and creative leaders becomes clear.  But, with some reports indicating that potential leaders are in short supply at present, it would appear that these leaders need to be groomed as opposed to plucked.

The demands, expectations, and pressure placed on the leaders of the future will only increase, making the need for leadership development all the more important.  The next generation of leaders must possess unrivalled tenacity, commitment to their goals, and the sense that any task, regardless of audaciousness, must be accomplished for the good of the company.

Incompetence tends to emerge quickly in those who are promoted without proper development, and with the pace of modern business, many companies tend to look to new leadership options when it is already too late.  The identification and development of young leaders possessing leadership abilities and strength of character are thus important for any company aspiring to posterity.


As we discussed above of this look at future leadership, tomorrow’s CEOs will have to possess both character strengths (credibility, caring, competence) and technical leadership skills in order to excel in an environment that is characterised by growing pace and increasing expectations.

But, how do current leaders identify these qualities in younger generations so as to start the process?  The truth is that finding good leadership candidates is far less intricate than finding a needle in a haystack, and simply requires the identification of a few of the following qualities:

How to Identify Future Leaders

1. Problem Solving

Some employees are full of excuses as to why a particular task failed.  Others won’t accept defeat and use their failed attempts to create different strategies.  The latter is certainly leadership material.

2. Motivation

Some employees are so motivated that their motivation is infectious and they tend to inspire others.  These are the types of employees who should be short-listed for leadership positions.  After all, inspiring others to work hard is one of the integral roles of a CEO.

3. Empathy

The best leaders are able to listen to their employees, retain the information, and then offer thoughtful solutions.  The employees to whom other employees go with their problems are already exhibiting leadership qualities.

4. Learning Ability

Employees who give the impression that they know everything usually don’t.  If you value knowledge as a leadership quality, look instead at the employees who constantly go out of their way to learn new things.

5. Time Management

Employees who tend to adopt a short-term approach to their tasks – dealing with each one in a linear fashion, regardless of size or scope – are always under pressure.  Those that see each one in terms of its relevance over the long-term have a better ability to prioritise them and complete them without the threat of pressure.  This ability to prioritise is important for leaders tasked with long-term company growth.

6. Pinpoint Excellence

Employees that attempt to fulfil a variety of roles never master any particular one.  This is not a good quality for a leader.  Instead, look to employees who master particular roles and then seek assistance and knowledge concerning others.  These will be effective leaders by way of delegation and teamwork.

Why Training Leaders Now Will Benefit Them in the Future

Risk is only real when companies don’t have a clear idea of what they are doing, both in the present and in the future.  So, any company that wants to decrease the risk of leadership upheaval in the future should be looking at developing future leaders in the present.

Executive consulting doesn’t have to apply only to current executives; it can be used to groom the leaders of tomorrow.  Thus, by developing the right qualities in potential candidates, companies can ensure that they have a continuance of leaders fit to cope with the increasing pressures at the top.

This article was contributed by Russell Peach from Flow20, who offer web design, SEO and other digital marketing solutions.

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