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Managing the Future of Your Company

May 14, 2018

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How to Identify Your Company's Next Generation of Leaders


 Finding the Next Generation of Leaders


When looking for your next generation of leaders, it makes sense to cultivate the widest pool you can manage. So why, when thinking about the future, do so many executives limit their options? In fact, when trying to find future leaders, companies tend to fall into three common issues:

  1. Current leaders overvalue job performance, and undervalue character traits.

  2. Current leaders tend to promote people who look, talk, act, and manage like they do.

  3. Current leaders overvalue their own opinions, and undervalue those of their employees.

As the companies become more diverse, missteps like these can blind you to a wealth of promising candidates. Let’s fix that!


What follows are five ideas that can help you better identify the prospective leaders lurking in your company:


Performance Matters. But Potential Matters More.

In most companies, the best performers get promoted to managerial positions. Unfortunately, as anyone who’s suffered under a bad manager knows, job skills don’t always translate into leadership skills, and the best employee may not always make the best leader.


So how about this? Maybe your best salespeople, marketers, or engineers can serve your company better by remaining the best salespeople, marketers, or engineers. Then, when looking for leaders, you can focus less on job performance (though that matters, of course), and more on actual leadership skills. Like boundless curiosity. Or emotional intelligence. Or an outstanding ability to communicate.


Put differently, when trying to identify future leaders, simply skimming from the top layer of job performers isn’t always the best strategy.


Look for People Willing to Try Different Solutions — and Accept the Consequences


Pointing out problems is easy. What’s harder? Coming up with solutions. What’s even harder? Being wise enough to change things when the first solution doesn’t work.


Great leaders aren’t only those with the best ideas. They’re also willing to accept responsibility for the decisions they’ve made. Even —or especially —their failures. That’s what inspires other people.


So when looking for leaders, it’s not only important to search for creative thinkers. You also want to find people with the courage to fail, publically, and to reevaluate their strategies accordingly.


The Best Leaders Are Not Always Those Who Talk the Most


Studies show that people who talk the most in meetings (and who talk more rapidly) tend to be rated as more intelligent. Those people also overwhelmingly tend to be male. (Huge surprise there.)


Put differently, those people who seem to be leading in group settings may in fact not be leading at all – they’re just talking a lot. Don’t be suckered in! Maybe the best leader is the person best able to build consensus. Or the quiet person who waits to speak,