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Want to see if your employee has leadership potential? Ask these seven questions...

by , 03 January 2014
You want to hire and keep the best employees so your business can outclass your competitors. To do this, you must identify talent and the indicators of leadership potential at any point in the human resource value chain. Here are seven questions that'll help you see if your employee has leadership potential.

The Practical Guide to Human Resources Management says part of talent identification in the workplace involves identifying winning employees who can make good leaders.

How do you go about doing this?

Ask these seven questions to see if your employee has leadership potential

Question #1: Does he see the broader view?

Leaders aren't born with the scope of thinking that characterises successful leaders, but they can acquire it.

Potential leaders always search for information and see things from a broader viewpoint. They place themselves and their accomplishments within that broader context.

Look for actions in employees and potential employees that show thinking of this kind.

For example, Julia, a high-potential executive, was asked to take on the responsibility of two additional divisions. She pointed out to her boss that her colleague, Martin, would be able to run the divisions better because they complemented businesses he already controlled.

Julia would've welcomed the challenge but was willing to put the company's interests above her own. She's a potential leader because she can think strategically from the viewpoint of the overall business.

Question #2: Does he have drive?

Identify if your employee shows drive.

For example, Andrew is a young sales representative who pushes hard to win more and more business. He outshines more senior salespeople in hitting targets and also seems to have a handle on what his sales manager does. He has the desire and ability to see the bigger picture.

Question #3: Can he cope with ambiguous tasks and demands?

Can your employee action ambiguous instructions and ideas without you having to set out the steps for him?

Can he interpret the goals of the business and initiate action to make things happen?

Question #4: Can he synthesise data for decisions?

Can he sift, sort and select information through its content and source? Identify if he can analyse large amounts of data and make a decision based on the data and his intuition.

Establish if he's able to see the consequences of his actions and the actions of others and create contingency plans in case decisions go wrong.

Question #5: Does he balance inherent tensions?

Make sure your leader can make judgement calls.

'He must balance the natural tensions between short- and long-term shareholders, customers and employees and opportunities and aspirations versus real-world realities and constraints,' says the Guide.

Identify if he's decisive and tough, doesn't let opportunities slip away or let other people set the course.

Question #6: Does he pursue learning and growth with passion?

Does your employee continually try to learn and grow?

See if he finds opportunities to take 'stretch' assignments that tax his abilities. This'll show he's stimulated by the challenge and opportunity to increase his knowledge about the business and people.

Question #7: Is he intellectually honest?

Your leader must be intellectually honest.

Identify if he has the self-confidence to acknowledge when he doesn't have the answers but knows he can find them.

He'll continually search for new ideas and different ways of seeing things. This means he'll be aware of leading-edge technologies and trends.

Make sure he has integrity and screen out those who aren't honest. Your leader must tell the truth and choose the ethical course of action when confronted with a moral or legal dilemma.

How do you acknowledge an employee with leadership potential?

Once you've identified a 'winning employee' (an employee with leadership potential), acknowledge him.

Let him know you've recognised his efforts and abilities. Don't think the only way to do this is monetarily – it's not.

You can make a simple mention at a staff meeting about the contribution that someone has made. This can go a lot further than you think!

Well there you have it. Identifying employees with leadership potential will help ensure you take steps to keep them so your business can retain its competitive advantage.

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