Professional Partner Content

How to Find and Grow Emerging Leaders

Contemporary workplaces are characterized by constant changes in technology, processes, market forces, customer needs, talent, and leadership. Leaders move up, sideways, leave, and retire. So it’s important to have a healthy pipeline of prepared leaders to step into key roles and keep your business on track toward its goals.

There are many reasons to look no further than your own talent pool to identify emerging leaders. Because of their organizational knowledge and relationships, internal candidates are set up for success to make a supported transition and learn a new role more quickly than external candidates. You can count on these emerging leaders to be a good fit and reinforce your core values. We also know that it can be motivating to employees when talent “rises through the ranks” within a company, especially if employees benefit from these career pathways.

Externally, recruiting comes with a cost and significant challenges, especially in today’s hiring market. With some industries experiencing a “war for talent,” looking outside the business for new leaders may not be a viable option.

A Work Environment That Fosters Emerging Leaders
A work environment that fosters emerging leaders is one that treats everyone as a potential leader. This mindset enables you to cast a wide net across a broad range of skills, departments, and levels when looking for emerging leaders. It also ensures more diverse talent and an adequate supply of future leaders.

Filling the pipeline is a constant need as employees do not remain in the pipeline permanently. Identifying emerging leaders should be an ongoing activity rather than a one-time event.

In the same spirit of treating all employees as potential leaders, managers should actively cultivate emerging leaders by providing development opportunities. Opportunities should provide a preview into what a leadership role entails—both so emerging leaders in the workplace can practice handling leader-level responsibilities and so managers can observe and coach. Existing managers are in the best position to facilitate these opportunities.

Perhaps the most critical element of a work environment that creates emerging leaders is following through with high-potential development. Too often, being identified as a high potential means participating in leadership training with the expectation that you will come out as a ready leader. But the most successful high-potential programs ( are long-term learning journeys that require manager support, opportunities for practice, and development plans.

How to Foster Emerging Leaders With Leadership Development
In my experience delivering leadership development training for numerous companies, frontline leaders face similar key challenges. They struggle with coaching, managing performance, communication, driving change, and defining their leadership approach. These are the fundamental skills of a leader. But we also find that these skills are underdeveloped in those already operating as a leader.

An effective leadership development program can start to develop these skills in emerging leaders. Your program should give emerging leaders access to simulations to learn and practice these skills in a safe space with peers at the same level. Emerging leaders can also use self-assessments to better understand their styles and think about what leadership tasks may be easier and harder for them. Most importantly, this training can give them a realistic preview of a leadership role.

Learn more about how to find and grow emerging leaders in your organization by checking out DDI’s blog.

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