How to Develop the Next Generation of Leaders
How to Develop the Next Generation of Leaders

How to Develop the Next Generation of Leaders

Emotional Intelligence, Leadership Development, Employee Learning & Development, Company Culture   — 3 MIN


Are good leaders born or created? This classic nature vs. nurture debate plays a key role in developing the next generation of leaders—first when identifying high-potential employees and later deciding who to promote to management or leadership positions. A leadership development plan is crucial to an organization's growth, talent pipeline, and succession planning. Let’s start with how to find potential leaders.

How to find leaders

Many five-star athletic recruits have been identified as early as middle school. While your organization might not be looking for the next power forward, the lesson is that It’s never too early to start looking for star power.

Internship programs are a great talent pipeline for any organization. Not only will an organization be able to use these programs to identify leadership qualities early on, but they can also expose those frontrunners to the organization’s culture and values at inception. 

So what qualities should organizations look for when scouting the next generation of talent? Typically, good leaders have a mix of both hard and soft skills. Examples of leadership qualities to pay close attention to are:

  • Authenticity 
  • Emotional intelligence 
  • Decision-making 
  • Good communication
  • Growth mindset
  • Integrity and ethics 
  • Resilience 

While these skills are green flags to look for in potential leaders, they are not all innate—that is, people are not simply born with them. This further supports the idea that leadership development is crucial for an organization's health. 

The importance of leadership development

Organizations benefit from leadership development:

  • New leaders can spur innovation and growth in an organization. This can be through an innovative process or practice, or simply a fresh way of looking at older problems.
  • New leaders help to keep employees engaged. According to Gallup, employees are four times more likely to be engaged when they strongly agree that they trust their organization's leadership.
  • New leaders are a natural part of succession planning. In succession planning, a company prepares for the future vacancy of one or more key roles. In this process, key talent is identified as those who can potentially fill these critical positions in the event of retirement, promotion, or separation from the company. Helping high-potential employees develop leadership qualities will help guarantee an organization’s longevity. 

How to develop leadership qualities 

Leadership development does not happen randomly; developing leaders requires a robust program. So, once an employee all-star team is assembled, it’s time to get to work.

For each future leader, there should be a leadership development plan. This plan is specific to that employee’s skill set, outlining their unique needs and personal goals. This plan might include training, job shadowing, and career milestones required to develop the employee’s leadership qualities. 


A point of difference in potential leaders is taking the initiative. This is important in the type of training assigned to employees being tapped for leadership positions. Assigning self-directed learning puts the employee in the driver’s seat to identify their learning needs, create their own goals, and develop a learning strategy. This gives employees autonomy over their learning and development, essentially taking charge of their careers. 

More focus on soft skills training will reap benefits for future leaders. Expressing empathy, improving time management, and being an active listener are important leadership skills. As much as these skills are taught, they must also be exercised. Create opportunities for employees to practice their soft skills in monthly meetings, projects, or employee-led groups.  

Job Shadowing 

Another way to develop leadership qualities is through job shadowing. Essentially, this allows an employee to get a first-hand look at what a role entails. Not only does it allow employees to meet key stakeholders, but it also helps organizations to find untapped potential presented through cross-training. 

Recently, organizations have utilized job rotations, where an employee is assigned a new role after a three-to-six-month period. This allows employees to develop leadership qualities and strengths in different business areas. 

Celebrating Career Milestones 

Good leaders also take note of their progress, especially their wins. As your high-potential employee gains more responsibility in their role or managing their team, even small wins are important to celebrate. Confidence in decision-making and the ability to delegate are skills built over time. Suggest your budding leader keep a success journal to track their wins and see how far they have come. 

Training the next generation of leaders is no small feat.
HSI Blue Ocean Brain has been successful in the building of leadership development programs. With skills training, self-directed microlearning, and career pathway guidance, HSI Blue Ocean Brain provides the structure to track and measure employees’ progress and success. 

To learn more about Blue Ocean Brain’s leadership development programs, schedule a consultation.