One fulfilling aspect of my job is the number of nonprofit organizations I have the opportunity to work with and the number of upcoming leaders whose stories I’ve had the chance to play a part in. Thanks to these experiences (and more than a few hard lessons), I’ve learned a thing or two about leadership and identifying leadership potential in staff.

Because nonprofit organizations go through changes and transformations like any workplace, having an idea of who on your team easily steps into these roles is crucial. And if you’re wondering how to identify leadership potential among your staff, I’ve got a few tips for you:

1. How Do They Perform On a Team

Before you do anything else, you need to ask yourself this question when assessing someone’s leadership potential. People forget that a leader cannot exist without their supporters, the same way supervisors cannot exist without supervisees, and companies cannot exist without employees.

Staff members who do well on teams are likely to perform well in leadership positions. Good teamwork shows they have their coworkers’ respect, are generally liked by their coworkers and can communicate well when working with others–a large part of leading.

2. Which Gaps Do They Fill

Being a leader requires a lot of teamwork with employees and other managers. What makes a strong leadership team is communication and complementary characteristics or skills. When considering someone for a managerial position, you should also consider how their skills and characteristics complement other managers.

For example, if Manager A is great at public speaking and engaging large groups of people, they’ll perform well at conferences and conventions. But what about the staff and donors who don’t attend those events or prefer smaller group settings?

In this case, when considering someone for a promotion, think about who you’ve seen thrive in smaller group settings and who is naturally skilled at connecting with people one-on-one.

3. Is This Something They Want?

I’m sure I’m not the first to notice that our sector has some of the most talented people working to make the world a better place. That’s certainly not a secret. However, one challenge I’ve come across multiple times is the employee who’s very talented in the one area they have no interest in working. Maybe they’re skilled in graphic design but don’t want to apply for the designer position that recently opened. The same logic applies to openings in management.

You might have an employee who is an obvious leader. They’re the first to step up in challenging situations, well-liked by their coworkers, innovative and reliable. The only problem is they’re not interested in managing a team or department. What they enjoy most is being a part of a team, not leading one. If there is one thing more damaging to an organization than bad management, it’s management that doesn’t want to be in that position.

If you’re interested in learning more about leadership and staff cultivation, schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me to see how we can work together!


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