Simple Ways to Recognize Emerging Leaders At Your Startup And How To Help Their Development

Growing your team and your company also means growing your future leaders.

Gallup discovered that the number one reason people change jobs today is career growth and opportunities. And that reason is still trending upwards.

Gallup’s research found that 59% of millennials say opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when they apply for a job.

Comparatively, 44% of Gen Xers and 41% of baby boomers say the same thing.

87% of millennials rate "professional or career growth and development opportunities" as important to them in a job, far more than the 69% of non-millennials who say the same.

There's a significant statistical difference here. It's something we need to pay attention to.

Are we helping our team develop and grow?

When Gallup asked people across generations why they left their last job, the most common words they used were "growth" and "opportunity." And 91% of U.S. workers say the last time they switched jobs, they left their company to do so.

This is why you, as a manager, need to become a coach because helping your employees grow is essential to creating a high-performance culture.

Part of being a coach is identifying and recognizing emerging leaders at your startup.

In this blog, we will go through three simple steps to recognize emerging leaders and how to help them develop.

Growing Your Team

As I mentioned above, growing your teams = developing your future leaders.

Before we dive deeper, we need to talk about the future of leadership.

Check out this video to see how work demands have changed and what managers can do to keep up. 👇

Everyone wants a company of great growth and revenue, but you must grow your leadership to grow your company.

What many don’t realize is that the success, growth, and development of their company hinges on the development of their people.

But in today’s business landscape, employees aren’t developing.

Growing and developing your future leaders can provide a cushion for team challenges.

Your emerging leaders can alleviate your current workload as a manager. They are a great vessel to move team projects, ignite motivation among team members, accelerate idea generation, and even solve problems.

While you might have your own definition of who the great potential leaders are on your team, we want to simplify the lookout process.

Why Developing Leaders is Important

Leadership is a verb, not a noun.

Your team probably already has people exhibiting leadership signs — these will be your “emerging leaders,” as Northhouse calls them.

Emerging leaders take the initiative without being assigned a leadership title. They voluntarily take on responsibilities and strive to bring value to the team. Usually, these are the most motivated people on a team.

Developing these people is beneficial for a multitude of reasons, such as:

1. Emergent leaders rise from the team.

They are not hired from other departments or even from an outside culture.

This can increase the chances for empathy amongst the team and reinforce the development and growth culture in the organization.

2. Emergent leaders know the team, organization and work at hand.

This can help have a smoother transition from team members into leadership roles.

Helping maintain team cohesion as the team will already be familiar with the person.

And most importantly, this will bring the most value to the team.

3. “Emergent leaders are most respected and most followed,” according to Northouse.

You can support emergent leaders in your team in multiple ways; accelerating their growth, encouraging their behaviour, recognizing their leadership qualities during your one-on-ones, etc.

How To Recognize Emergent Leaders

To recognize emergent leaders, follow the steps below.

Step 1: Get rid of your own bias.

When identifying your emergent leaders, you first need to bring some self-awareness to the table.

Bias is rooted deep in us as human beings, so it’s essential to identify them before fairly recognizing emergent leaders in our team.

There are five types of bias when reviewing employees:

1️⃣ Personal or idiosyncratic: Managers are more likely to see the good in employees who they like and do things the way the manager would.

2️⃣ Halo effect: When employees usually perform well in one area the manager values, the manager may also rate substandard aspects of their performance favourably.

3️⃣ The middle default: Managers have a natural tendency to give most people a "satisfactory" rating because they struggle to distinguish performance among workers. It requires more effort to justify why someone is performing substantially better or worse than other employees.

4️⃣ Leniency and strictness biases: Though most managers tend to rate most people as at least satisfactory, some have a bias toward the extremes.

Leniency bias is giving favourable ratings even though employees have notable room for improvement.

On the other hand, strictness bias is when a manager believes that "nobody is perfect" and tends to be overly critical of most employees.

5️⃣ Spillover effect: As with the halo effect, managers are more likely to rate employees who were good performers in the past favourably in the future.

Once managers set the bar for an employee and make up their mind, they need a compelling reason to modify their prior judgment.

Some teams have all high performers, while others have mostly low performers. For example, a high-performing team's lowest-rated performer may be more productive than the lowest-performing team's highest-rated performer. Who wants to punish a high performer or give too much credit to a slacker?

Here are two ways to improve the reliability of a performance metric:

1. Have more frequent discussions with your employees.

Include information from multiple sources, such as coworkers, customers and as much performance data as possible.

2. Have coaching conversations.

No manager can know the full impact, day in and day out, of their employees without ongoing coaching conversations.

Narrow metrics, especially without ongoing conversations, lead to narrow behaviour and pressure people to do whatever is necessary to improve the metric instead of contributing to the organization’s big-picture goals.

Step 2: List the actions and traits emergent leaders display.

Now that we have covered biases and how to reduce them, here are some samples of actions or leadership traits they display

  • They take the initiative to lead others.
  • They encourage agreement among coworkers.
  • They know how to solicit other people’s opinions, disagree, and encourage others in conversations.
  • They strive to develop ways for the team to work more efficiently.
  • They volunteer to take on responsibilities.

It is essential to focus on actions that aren’t limited to doing more work.

👉 Read this blog to know the Important Leadership Skills for Workplace Success

When looking for emergent leaders, look for people who strive to lead others and handle that task well.

Step 3: Identify team members who display the qualities you listed in Step 2.

For this exercise to be effective, try to be objective: we all have biases, and it’s easy to focus on people you already single out in your mind. Refer back to step 1.

A simple way to avoid bringing bias into your analysis is to write things down as soon as you notice a leadership trait.

This will help to be more accurate when recognizing emerging leaders.

It won’t be about “a feeling” but a fact or action that actually happened because you wrote it down, thus remembering it more accurately.

Step 4: Identify 3 actions you can do to support your emergent leaders.

Developing your employees is about identifying strengths, but also about providing support and opportunities for growth.

Some ideas are:

  • Have a conversation with them about their long-term goals and ask them if they are interested in leadership positions in the future.
  • Ask what responsibilities or projects they enjoy the most.
  • Consider where you could delegate tasks or responsibilities to them to grow qualities they seek to develop and your team will benefit from.

Parting Thoughts

Recognizing your emerging leaders is a crucial part of being a manager.

And it doesn’t have to be a demanding role or additional responsibility.

As we mentioned above, developing your employees and offering growth opportunities is a big part of employee retention — especially amidst The Great Resignation.

Consider mentoring your emergent leaders through coaching conversations or finding someone in the company who could.

The following blogs will help you expand your insights into this topic and further your skillset to complete this important part of your management role.

👉 The Coach Approach: How to go from Boss to Leader

👉 How to Help your Managers Have Insightful Career Developments Conversations With Employees

👉 Leaders are Made, Not Born: How to Select a Leadership Training Program for Your Startup

Related posts


Subscribe for your remote team management free education series.

Five lessons and five tools delivered to your inbox for the next five weeks.
No Thanks