How to Develop Leadership Capacity Among Members of Your Staff


The Professional Standards for Educational leaders, (formerly known as ISLLC Standards) suggest that effective educational leaders develop the professional capacity of school personnel and provide them with opportunities and mentoring. We know that simply leading from the top doesn’t work and that good leaders understand the value of shared leadership, and know that many voices and diversity of thought, yields better results.

Having leaders on your staff is a huge asset. When you know how to pinpoint leadership potential, you know who to engage in discussions, gather input from, and delegate authority and responsibilities, all of which benefits the organization. But how do you spot the leadership potential of those among your staff, and cultivate and capitalize on their skills and talents?

1. Pay Close Attention

The saying that “cream rises to the top” is generally true. Leadership potential should be obvious. The best future leaders demonstrate a willingness and desire to learn more, are often thinking ahead and are aspirational.

These are the people who are willing to put in the extra effort and show that they have both high skill and high will to work for the good of the organization. They are also the people who other staff members respect and trust and can help to build critical mass.

2. Consider Both Potential and Readiness

As you think about succession planning, ask yourself who might be able to fill your shoes in a year or two if they are supported, coached and mentored? That’s potential. These people demonstrate some ability and may have even articulated a desire or aspiration for greater responsibility.

Now ask yourself, who could do your job today? That’s readiness. These are people who understand the role and already possess many of the skills necessary for leadership.

Understanding the current and future needs of your organization can help you better develop a support strategy for both of these individuals. For example, a person who is ready, might be given autonomy to lead and complete a project or task in his/her own way, while a person with potential might benefit from opportunities to be on a project team where they can work with and learn from other leaders.

3. Recruit and Retain the Right People

In some cases, we inherit staff members, but when possible, be intentional and recruit and hire people who, among other skills and talents, also possess leadership potential. Instead of looking to fill a position or role that is specific to content knowledge, or that matches the performance criteria, also look for leadership potential.

Ask questions about how the candidate handles conflict or overcomes challenges, and how they can work with others to solve problems. Ask about how they work best when they are part of a community of practice, and what strategies they employ when plans are derailed.

No job is completely predictable. A good leader can face challenges at work with responsiveness and confidence, rather than sticking to a routine approach no matter what comes up. You want a leader who can take on challenges as they arise and handle them appropriately.

4. Look for Passion

Think about your own mentors. It’s likely you would describe them as passionate about their work. The employees who make the best leaders are always looking for ways to do better. They want to learn more, develop new skills, and bring fresh ideas to the table. They are motivated and determined to do better every day. They are PASSIONATE!

If an employee shows a real passion and hunger to learn more about how to be better at the job, they have great leadership potential. If they’re passionate, they create a greater likelihood of bringing out the passion in others. What they say matters, but how they say it matters more, so they should be warm, friendly, and relatable, showing a high level of emotional intelligence. They can easily have a conversation with students or staff that doesn’t feel one-sided and be a good listener who pays attention to others and can hear people out and respond with genuine interest. The best leaders are often not the people who talk the most or the loudest.

Now You Know How to Spot Leadership Potential Among Your Employees

As a leader, you have a responsibility to foster leadership skills in all of your employees. Share your expertise with them and share leadership responsibility because you can’t and shouldn’t do it all alone.

Want to learn more about leadership development and education? Schedule a consultation with us today.

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