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Heat Seekers: Identifying & Developing High-Potential Leadership Talent

August 24, 2022
By: Patrick Bosworth in the Great Leaders category.

Amid the sea of faces in every company, there’s someone lurking and pining for the chance to take the reins from their superior. It could be a multitude of things; they think they could do the job better, want to advance in their career, or could just desire increased compensation. There are no one-size-fits-all criteria to determine who would make a great leader. This is because different people have different motivational drivers that help them live with the choices they make in their lives.

A person motivated by money and other financial or material perks will go to great lengths to achieve that desire. Likewise, a person with solid patience and a will to teach may be a great fit for a leadership position that involves coaching and developing others. Both are leadership positions, but one is ultimately self-serving while the latter is philanthropic in nature.

What Is Leadership Potential?

When reading the above paragraphs, concentrate on the type of leader that could be awaiting you at your company. That young, fast, and smooth-talking sales rep who’s been leading his peers for the last two quarters could make for an excellent sales manager, assuming they’re able to keep their own ego in check. Figuring out exactly what motivates that type of candidate is often a job in itself, though. Are they motivated by rank and level position? Are they excited about team contributions?

It’s a bit of a loaded question, admittedly. There are so many factors that go into being a “man of the people;” the actual answer is determined by company goals and culture. Will a new leader vastly improve the current status quo? Or will hotter heads prevail, and a potential mutiny will start amongst employees?

And that’s ok. But one thing is certain: Leaders need to motivate the bottom to rise to the top so the top is unhappy that the bottom ever existed.

Identifying Leadership

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists; when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves.” — Lao Tzu

While there’s no perfect answer to this age-old question, there are two specific characteristics that are essential to leadership success. Look out for these during semi-annual and annual performance reviews — and when you spot it, NURTURE IT!


Can the employee communicate effectively to other members of leadership or their peers? Communication is much more than simply speaking to others in an amiable way — words must be able to make transformational changes on a core level. And a proficient communicator is able to convey a message that resonates with everyone regardless of societal levels. This means effective messaging to clients, loved ones, new hires, and seasoned veterans alike. The speech has to be dynamic and fluid, able to adapt to new terrain like a stream washing over rocks. The words, actions, and mannerisms they present exude trust and commitment, while their posturing is as solid as a rock without implied intimidation or coercion.


Not to be confused with a famous foot powder, tenacity is the determination we all possess that can be utilized for the betterment of the business. Does the new potential leader strive for excellence in all they do or settle for mediocrity? In order to overcome obstacles, they’ll need to possess a raw strand of tangible resolve that many claim to have, but few can deliver on. This is especially important during critical events (such as customer service issues) and often shows up in their approach to problem-solving.

Can Anyone Be a Leader?

“We did not all come over on the same ship, but we are all in the same boat. — Bernard Baruch

Yes, although maybe not in the way we usually think. Everyone has the potential to be great; the real question is, can they do it repeatedly and in a way that lifts those around them? People come from all different industries and walks of life; no two stories are ever the same. But those characteristics they carried with them from one situation to another can prove extremely valuable if directed in a way that aligns with company values and emboldens others to follow suit.

“Same nuts and bolts, different machine.” — Unknown

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