Cultivating a leader in your team

in Managing by Helen MacDougall
(2 Ratings)
How to find a leader in a team

Identifying star staff


Recognising your future team leaders from your employees is not difficult if you know what to look for. Leaders work hard and get results. Make a list of your employees and divide them into two columns – those who exceed their performance objectives and those who don’t. Within your list of those who do lies your future department heads.


Someone who gets results, however, doesn’t automatically make a good leader. They might be ambitious to the point of flattening their colleagues in their quest to reach pole position. A team leader should be someone your employees will look up to and work productively under.


Be conscious not to put all your eggs in one basket. The development of all team members is important to your success and will provide your business with a talent pool. It will also ensure you are not stuck if your backup decides to leave.


Key leadership qualities to look out for


  • Team player:

    It sounds obvious, but a team leader first and foremost needs to be a team player. Who of your staff actively encourages and boosts their fellow team members? Who helps out when another member of staff is flagging? Who is popular amongst their peers?

  • Initiative:

    In business, the risk takers are often the ones who succeed. Who in your team is the first to turn up to meetings? Who does a job before you have to ask for it to be done? Who is prepared to tackle the tricky projects that no one else will touch? Who thinks outside the box?

  • Learner:

    A leader is eager to both coach and be coached. A know-it-all can’t lead a team if there is no room to grow. A true leader is able to accept responsibility when things go awry and moves on.

  • Composure:

    Leaders don’t crack under pressure. They’re the ones in meetings who make eye contact and aren’t fiddling with their smartphones. Leaders have body language that says “I’m calm and competent”.


Leader development


Once you have singled out your leaders, the next step is to hone their skills.


  • Assign a project:

    Encourage individuals to take on small leadership roles like chairing a meeting under your supervision. Are they good at delegating tasks? How is their time management? Does their team work productively under them?

  • Create a sub-team:

    Within your business, divide your workforce into smaller groups and then assign leaders to each. This can be done on a trial basis until your leaders have proven themselves.

  • Training:

    Investing in courses can be costly, but ensuring your future leaders have the correct skillset can be invaluable to your business. Training programs can be set up in-house or outsourced to external providers.

  • Mentoring:

    Offer to support the person to grow their leadership skills.

  • Shadowing:

    Get your future leader to shadow you for a month and see how they perform. Set the pace through your expectations and example.

  • Hand over the reins:

    When you feel they are ready, give your leader some serious responsibility. Let them take control of the business for a short period of time but be on-hand to answer any questions they might have. Observe from a distance how they take charge and how the other members of staff work under their leadership.

  • Feedback:

    Get confidential feedback from the individual as well as other employees on how they are faring. Bosses are often unaware of what’s going on behind closed doors.


Identifying and nurturing the potential leaders in your team takes time and dedication. The result, however, is staff who are skilled and ready to take on the challenges of leadership when the time arises.



This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.

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With six years of Advertising behind her and a commendable portfolio in tow, Helen decided to follow her passion for writing and set up as a Freelance Writer in 2012. Her writing shop, Copyfox, offers copy for predominantly digital channels - optimised website copy, website content and articles, eMail marketing activity and social media content and management. As well as a writer, Helen is also a Digital Producer, with a strong technical knowledge of online strategy, digital design and build.

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