Do you need to identify and develop leaders in your organisation?  Not sure where to start?  Why not start with yourself?!  That might sound a bit weird, but as the saying goes, ‘it takes one to know one’.  Think about your own leadership journey – what qualities and capabilities do you possess that might give you an idea of what to look for in others?  Did you have a mentor or role model who identified some leadership potential in you?

Emerging leaders in your team have a few identifiable characteristics.  You can find lists upon lists on the internet.  Among them I have chosen 5 that I believe are easily spotted.


Leaders don’t stand around waiting for direction, they see things that need to be done and go and do it or ask if they can help.  Even their initiative in the staff kitchen wiping the bench can indicate that they take ownership and make things happen.  They make suggestions of how things could be improved, support others in the team who might be overloaded or take on extra responsibility enthusiastically.

Work ethic

They are not afraid to get their hands dirty and take some risks.  They put in extra time to finish a task, work well under pressure and don’t make everyone else suffer because they are flat chat.  They also have a high standard for themselves.  (Be aware that some people might need to finish late because they are not using their time effectively during the day).

Passion for outcomes

Great leaders have a passion for outcomes.  They are aware of the big picture and realise that some extra work needs to be done to achieve the outcomes the business needs.  They are goal focused and are committed to being clear about expectations.

People follow them

They naturally gather followers.  You will notice others in the team look to them for advice and value their opinion.  They are not necessarily the loudest in the room either and do not push themselves forward but are highly respected with a great deal of empathy.


Leaders with integrity are open, honest, lead by example and build trust and respect with their team and customers.  They walk their talk, speak with wisdom and understanding and allow those around them to shine.  They are humble.


How do we develop these people into high performing leaders?  I remember learning to ride a two-wheeler.  I was out with my best friend and her dad at the local shopping centre car park practicing (the shops were shut), with him running behind holding the seat.  I have a vivid memory of calling out “You can let go now, Mr Wilkins!”, then turning around to see him standing, watching, miles away.  He had not been holding the seat for ages, I hadn’t noticed, and I WAS RIDING BY MYSELF!

Developing emerging leaders is a little like this. You support them for a little while until they can do it on their own.  You are still there with them, but they are independent.

At a recent Geelong HR Roundtable hosted by Harvest, our facilitator, Julian Carle from Synergen Group, shared a framework around the leaders role, with 6 key areas that can be applied to developing leaders.


Set clear expectations around performance.  The clearer they are about what you want from them the more likely they are to meet those expectations.  Don’t wait for the annual performance review, meet quarterly to go over what you expect.  Do it with your boss as well – take the initiative, don’t wait.


Translate your expectations into clear goals.  Give them small stretch goals – take them out of their comfort zone a little.  Give them support and encouragement.  Start them off leading a segment in a meeting or doing a safety share in a toolbox.  Use SMART goals which are easily measured.


Don’t wait for them to stuff up before you give them feedback – make feedback a natural part of your conversation with them so that you are always pointing out how their leadership capabilities are growing.  The more you focus on what they are doing well, the more likely they are to keep doing it.  Using the Situation, Behaviour, Impact approach enables an objective conversation around performance.


Give them extra responsibility – delegate some of your tasks to them with plenty of support initially, like helping a child learn to ride a bike.  And be clear about what skills you want or need them to have – what else to they need to do the job better? Give them training – expose them to new ideas and skills.  Start with the basics of communication, presentation skills, or an introduction to leadership.  Take them with you on client visits and let them do some of the talking.


Giving your emerging leaders opportunity to develop will profoundly impact their performance.  If they are engaged and feel valued, they will be more productive and motivated.  Make sure you monitor their performance so that if there is some deviation from the desired performance you can correct them quickly and easily before it becomes an issue.  And keep an eye out for the high performers – they get bored easily and can disengage quickly.


Ask them what they want for themselves in the future.  What else might they want to do in the organisation?  Do they want to lead?  How?  Leadership can take many forms in a large organisation, from running social events and fundraisers to being responsible for a safety project or continuous improvement program.  Consider how they can lead by influence.  They might have a special talent no one knows about because they have never been given the chance to share it which creates a leadership opportunity.  Get their buy-in, this should be done with them, not to them.  Ask them what they think they need to develop their leadership skills and experience.

Finally, watch their relationships with their peers/colleagues – how can you help build respect from their workmates?  As you gradually increase their opportunities to lead in small ways you will notice their confidence build until they are ready to say like one youngster, “you can let go now, Mr Wilkins!”, and you will be far away watching your protégé with pride!


Written by Meredith Telfer, Careers Specialist, Harvest Human Resources


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