How to spot emerging leaders

An important task for senior leaders in the wealth industry is to spot emerging leaders to lead teams and the organisation into the future. Anna Marshall, author of On your marks, get set... LEAD! explains.

How do you identify and support emerging leaders in the role? What do you need to do?

When you look around your organisation , who are the connectors and enablers? Who are the people who can adapt and flex into different teams, projects, working arrangements and deftly achieve outcomes with others? Who are the people who shine a light on the achievements of others and are humble about their own? Who are the people who listen attentively and ask good questions? These people are your people leaders of the future.

As you identify these emerging leaders and encourage them into positions where they can develop their people leadership skills, the best way to support them is to become an exceptional coach.

To do this, you need to be present with them, don't multitask when they're coming to you with questions, and give them your full undivided attention. You need to listen to them deeply: What are they saying? How are they feeling? What are they not saying? A good place to start is being curious and asking questions to establish rapport.

Finally, instead of trotting out glib advice, think about a great question you could ask them that would enable them to come up with their solution.

When supporting someone into the role, are there things I need to stop doing?

When you're supporting an emerging leader, you need to model what great leadership looks like. Great leadership looks like coaching; it doesn't look like advice-giving. So, the number one thing you need to do is to stop providing advice.

As counterintuitive as it sounds, when you take the time to be present, listen deeply, and ask a cracking question that has your emerging leader stop dead in their tracks, wrack their brain, and come up with a solution, you are empowering them to be successful.

We hear that the pandemic, lockdowns, and emotional strain of the past eighteen months have changed the leadership role. What do you think has changed?

The pandemic has been somewhat of a litmus test for leadership: does my leader genuinely care about me as a person?

It has forced many leaders to think more holistically about what makes people's lives better. The team member is no longer just the efficient and effective achiever who shows up from 8 am to 5 pm in the office.

They are the parent homeschooling two young kids, the person disconnected from their family and support networks who live interstate, the person suffering from a mental health condition, the person whose partner's employment has been terminated.

As leaders and their people have faced many common challenges, empathy has necessarily increased. As a result, individuals in many organisations have experienced a greater care factor by their leader.


How much can be taught and how much is intrinsic to a leader?

Leadership is a choice. The challenge for anyone who wishes to become a people leader is whether they genuinely care for people and would like to play a role in enabling others to become successful.

Sadly, in some organisations, people choose the leadership path because they see this as the only way to gain promotion.

Ideally, there should be both a technical track and a leadership track inside organisations; both are valuable paths. Where an emerging leader has a growth mindset - they are keen to learn, are prepared to try new things and fail, ask questions to build their knowledge, and ask for help - wonderful things are possible.

If one of my team wants to take on a people leadership role within my organization, where do they start?

Building effective relationships is an exceptional place to start. Encourage them to connect effectively with people and build trust and rapport. This is the foundation of effective leadership. Consider how they might take on a leadership role within a small project to build their capabilities and boost their learning. 

Contact your HR team and ask about development opportunities - programs, secondments, mentoring, coaching, and more. Remember that your team member doesn't have to have "leader" in their title to demonstrate leadership capability. There are opportunities every day for them to role model inspiring leadership. What's the first thing they could do? And what can you do to support them?

Once identified a leadership material, what steps do potential leaders take to demonstrate they've got the goods.

Firstly, they must genuinely connect with the people in the team. They need to establish trust with and between the team members.

Secondly, they need to clearly and regularly communicate with their team. Regular team meetings are essential and must be about the team - not a random selection of presentations from across the business. It's far better to have more, shorter, focused meetings and fewer long, rambling, unfocused meetings. And if you're working virtually, having a short daily 'check in' maintains connection within the team.

Thirdly, emerging leaders must focus their team on their 'why' and their 'what'. Knowing why the team exists creates clarity on what matters most. This is critical to preventing people from becoming overwhelmed, as it enables them to decide what to do and what not to do.

Fourthly, develop the potential in your people. Establishing a cycle of regular development discussions with team members is essential. Discussing needs, providing positive feedback and feedback for improvement, making a plan, and following up are the critical elements that keep team members growing and engaged.

Finally, emerging leaders must empower their people to resolve their own problems. They must switch from providing answers to offering curious questions that enable the team to become more self-sufficient.