Identifying people with leadership skills is perhaps the most important task for an organization that has its eyes on the future. Every organization has employees from across the rank and file with leadership capabilities that can take the organization forward. It is just that many of them never get to the limelight, as a result of which they leave out of frustration. In many organizations, even after such employees have left; the impact is never realized fully, because the reason for which they left was something the organization created in the first place.
Put a system in place
To avoid such a situation, the organization has to have an efficient system of identifying leadership skills in an employee. There are various ways by which this is done. The nearest and easiest person to identify a tyro with leadership potential is the manager to whom he reports. He is the most vital source for spotting and nurturing leadership skills. Rookies who have just begun their career will report to a manager who has no idea at the beginning about the new recruit’s potential.
The manager is the ideal person
This manager should be the first contact through whom the leadership skill is recognized and given shape to. With no prejudice towards that employee, the manager should make an objective assessment of such skills. The manager should try out by giving assignments and challenges in a graded manner. Since the novice is at the manager’s total disposal; he can try out various combinations and permutations of identifying skills.
Test the beginner in a variety of ways
He can start by allotting simple tasks. If the new recruit achieves the task with ease, he can be tried for greater roles, all of which demand good leadership skills. A good candidate is one who takes every task as a challenge and gets fuelled by greater complexity levels. Doing this consistently should be easy for the manager to locate and then if need be, refine these skills.
There are a few drawbacks
Often, the flip side of this exercise is that the manager could end up overrating an employee in whom he subconsciously sees a reflection of his own management style, which may be far from perfect. Spotting leadership mettle can suffer other drawbacks, too. There are innumerable instances in which a manager’s blue-eyed body is the one who is most favored for promotions.
Dealing with experienced employees
If this is the case of handling rookies, there are other occasions on which people with leadership potential are gifted to an organization on a platter. When employees are consistently denied leadership growth, one organization’s loss is another’s gain. All that an organization needs to do is to recruit the frustrated employee. Once he has been recruited, a simple thing the new organization can do is to give him opportunities of the kind he was missing earlier on. This will bring about many benefits by bringing the best out of him.
It will motivate the employee highly, because he is freshly out of the old organization. He will show the enthusiasm of a proselyte and work in the new organization till he drops dead. The other major benefit is that such an employee will be easy to retain.
Manager is important here too
Here too, the manager is the most important person in identifying leadership potential. Of course, since this kind of employee is not raw and carries some experience; it calls for different dynamics. The experienced employee may have ego issues with the new manager. Or he could have other issues like reluctance to carry out instructions. These factors have to be taken into account in such situations. It calls for handling such persons with suave. They would not like to be shouted at, which is a small luxury for a manager dealing with a greenhorn.
HR can help
For these bottlenecks to be overcome, HR has to step in. It can, in fact, initiate the entire process. To make sure that spotting leadership in the organization is a collective process and one that is free of errors of the type we saw; irrespective of the experience of the employee that joins the organization, HR can start identifying leadership potential from day one of the employee’s tenure.
It can interact with the manager on a regular basis and keep itself updated on the progress the employee that the manager has identified as one with leadership potential, is making. It could keep a close watch on this employee’s attitude towards work and life. It could be a good point of contact between this employee’s manager and the top management.
Another important way by which HR can play an active role in the process is by placing or being a filter in the selection of the employee with leadership potential. We saw that there are a few drawbacks in the method of identifying leadership skills. HR is the best suited department to ensure that the manager does not show favoritism or is not erring in his judgment. It can use its own assessment skills to cross check and reinforce the manager’s choice. This will ensure that the organization reaps the best out of the employee with leadership potential.
There is one point that HR needs to address when it is doing this. HR itself has to be completely free of prejudice. If it is assigned the task of verifying the manager’s choice and carries a bad memory of the manager, it is likely to mar a bright prospect.
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