Chief Executive Officer Thomas International
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How to spot the real leaders of tomorrow

22nd Mar 2021
Chief Executive Officer Thomas International
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COVID-19 demonstrated the very real need for strong leadership in times of crisis. Things can break down very quickly if there’s no sense of purpose or direction from those at the helm. 

But the traditional characteristics of a “strong leader” - dominant, passionate, decisive - aren’t necessarily what have successfully seen businesses through the pandemic. We’ve seen leaders who have shown adaptability and emotional intelligence take centre stage to steer their companies through the storm. 

The sudden shift to remote working meant all employees had to adapt their working styles. For leaders, this meant adopting an agile approach to workforce management. One that not only maintained engagement and productivity but understood the feelings and needs of others - including how team members manage stress and conflict, as well as overall performance. 

While these traits have been a must-have for a ‘pandemic-focused’ leader, moving forward, it will be easy for businesses to fall into the trap of promoting the same type of person based on ingrained ideas of what a leader should be - in regard to age, education and management style. But to lead successfully in a post-COVID world, businesses must adapt to a culture of change and breed a diverse pool of leaders.

Banish unhelpful stereotypes

One of the most common issues in succession planning is evaluating and selecting future leaders based on unconscious bias - such as gut feel or length of service in a business. This can very often lead to an ‘identical’ leadership team and result in too many people thinking and acting in the same way - substantially reducing innovative working methods. Ultimately we need to increase diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace. Especially in leadership roles. Diverse minds breed diverse problem solving, better employee engagement, productivity and more. 

To spot the real leaders of tomorrow, HR teams should employ psychometric assessments to ensure all promotions are based on objective data and tangible insights into a person’s leadership skills. This will help to mitigate unhelpful and detrimental stereotypes. 

Specifically, behavioural tests can help to spot leaders based on their preferences for communicating with others. Insights from these tests can also highlight the level of interpersonal skills a person has and help predict how they might respond to new and different scenarios - such as how they will react and cope with a new leadership role. 

Dig deep into personality traits and nurture employee confidence

To spot potential and keep tomorrow’s leaders in their organisation, businesses must get a better understanding of each individual’s personality and what they need to do to nurture confidence.

While many think leaders need to act in a certain way, the truth is anyone who has the right attributes and level of confidence can succeed in a leadership role. By harnessing personality assessments to identify the traits that give each person confidence, and combining this insight with other factors such as skill-set and behavioural traits, HR teams can see who are most likely to succeed as future leaders. 

For instance, knowing that someone can drive innovation in their team - which can be measured as their level of curiosity - but still make their team feel comfortable through high pressure and stressful situations - recognised as a high level of adjustment - is crucial for understanding how potential leaders will react to a change in role.

Armed with this insight, HR leaders can create tailored development programmes, including leadership and communication training, to help position these employees to take on more responsibility in the future. And develop an individual’s strengths to ensure they reach their full potential and thrive as a leader.

Businesses need to take a proactive approach to spot their leaders of tomorrow. Using a scientific approach, alongside providing continuous support and development, any business can avoid the trap of promoting the same stereotypical leaders. And ensure they have a successful and competitive organisation, that leads to a brighter tomorrow. 

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