Learning & Development, Talent

Identifying Hidden Leadership Potential

Every company needs leaders, and senior managers should continuously be on the lookout for those with the potential to one day take on a leadership position within the company. Identifying leaders when there is an open leadership position is too late.


In addition to the organizational need, identifying and grooming future leaders is also great for morale and employee retention. Staff who feel they have a bright future in the organization are far less likely to look for other job opportunities.

But how does a company identify leadership potential? There are almost always outgoing, ambitious staff with a path to the top in their minds, but these aren’t the only or even the right people for future promotion. In this post, we discuss some traits to look for when identifying potential future leaders.


Some employees require a great deal of hand-holding. Others are great at managing their own time and working independently. These people often get overlooked by their managers precisely because their managers don’t need to spend a ton of time managing them. Still, they can be great candidates for future leadership positions.

Team Player

Whether in sports or in the office, some people are simply standouts when it comes to teamwork. They are willing to sacrifice and put in extra time to make sure the team succeeds, even if it doesn’t guarantee them a direct personal advantage. That is a great trait to look for in someone to lead a team.


Many managers have a key subordinate they rely on to help manage their numerous responsibilities. It could be the person who takes the lead in executing the manager’s strategy or the person who is always a reliable sounding board for new ideas and problem-solving.

“Do you have people doing great work that is being credited to ‘bigger’ personalities in the room?” asks Joel Garfinkle in an article for SmartBrief. “ Think about who in your group might be frustrated by their low visibility and lack of recognition while others doing similar work get more respect.”

No company is static, and that is especially true with personnel. One of the few certainties HR professionals and executive leadership can rely on is that today’s leaders won’t be with their organization forever.

Whether through retirement or job change, there will always be turnover in management roles, and organizations need to constantly be on the lookout for the next crop of leaders.