5 Ways to Spot & Develop an Emerging Leader

5 Ways to Spot & Develop an Emerging Leader

5 Ways to Spot & Develop an Emerging Leader

Your emerging leaders are your rising managers and leaders in the making. But how do you spot an emerging leader and then develop them into a leadership role? Picking the right people and training them the right way is essential. That’s why we’ve provided five (5) qualities these talented employees usually embody plus 5 ways to develop them.

1. Achiever.

Emerging leaders are smart and talented high-achievers in their current roles. They consistently produce more and better work than their peers, are considered subject-matter experts, and know how to attain results by their own accord and through others. They are driven to accomplish great things.

2. Change agent.

Emerging leaders are often agents of change in their organizations. They are likely to initiate new ways of doing things and are proponents of taking risks to further the organization. They share ideas, aren’t afraid to embark on new projects and opportunities, and may challenge the status quo.

3. Developer.

Emerging leaders not only show an interest in developing themselves and their own capabilities, but also have the ability and interest in training, developing, mentoring, and coaching other employees. Many have a natural knack for building talent and want to see others succeed and grow to their fullest potential.

4. Team-player.

Emerging leaders are collaborative, great teammates, and good communicators. They seek others’ input and opinions, use it to shape their ideas, and generate consensus. They have strong soft-skills and have emotional intelligence when it comes to dealing with others. They are well-liked and well-respected by their peers and get along with others easily.

5. Business-savvy.

Emerging leaders are business savvy. They are strategic-minded, show business acumen, and have a good understanding of the market and industry in which your organizations operates.  

Disclaimer: It’s important to use these general qualities as simply a guide – an example of the types of attributes that typically characterize these employees. We encourage you to identify specific leadership traits that are important to your own organization since they may differ and vary in every workplace. In addition, after you have identified these individuals, use these five critical tools to develop your emerging leaders.

1. Challenging projects.

Talented up-and-coming leaders need challenging assignments that stretch them to new heights. Identify strategic projects, high visibility assignments, strategic business opportunities, lean/efficiency projects, and short-term assignments in other divisions/departments and perhaps in tandem with your executive team. The more exposure your emerging leaders can receive from senior leaders, the better.

2. Mentor or coach.

Emerging leaders will benefit from a senior-level mentor or coach. Ideally, the mentoring or coaching relationship should be structured with regular meetings at least quarterly (and if possible monthly or more frequently) and target specific skills that the rising star needs to develop.

3. Opportunities to lead.

Rising stars want opportunities to lead others and practice managing key initiatives. Designate them as leads on major projects or initiatives and on special committees, teams, or sub-groups. Allow them to mentor or train other employees such as new-hires or junior-level employees. These opportunities will help build their leadership abilities to prepare them for future roles in your organization. 

4. Development plan.

A development plan is necessary for your high potential. It can be very basic or it can be highly detailed. The important part is that it must exist. There must be a living document or plan that is created to help get your rising star from point A to point B in the organization. Why? Lack of structure in developing others leads to lack of accountability by all the parties involved in the development process.

5. Formal training.

Emerging leaders have likely never been taught the fundamentals of leadership and management and need to be educated on them and engage in classroom experiences that help them build critical skills in communication, presentation, change management, performance management, conflict resolution, and more.

If your organization hasn’t yet embarked on identifying and developing your emerging leaders, consider doing so. Not only will it help you prepare for future management and leadership openings, but it will also help you engage and retain these critical employees that you likely can’t afford to lose.

Emerging Leader Training Series

Emerging Leader Training Series

Have the emerging leaders within your organization been identified? Do they have the skills and knowledge needed to best represent your organization? In this 3-part series, participants will learn tools to present themselves more effectively and enhance their contribution to the organization.

Learn More about Emerging Leader Training


  • Kelly Keefe

    An award-winning business leader and human resources professional, Kelly is the first female president in ERC’s 104-year history.Kelly believes that people are an organization’s most valuable asset, and each person needs the right tools and training to be successful. She lives out this belief daily by providing our staff with coaching, counseling, and skill assessment.