Three ways to find future leaders in your business

Heather Jennings

We all know strong leaders are important for small businesses to thrive, but with daily demands and targets to meet, pinpointing up-and-coming talent is not often a top priority.

Thankfully, knowing the right traits to look out for and implementing a succession plan can help you land the most suitable leader for your business.

Seek these qualities

When considering a future leader within your small business, take into account a variety of qualities like emotional intelligence, decision-making abilities, conviction and flexibility.

Alex Louey, founder and managing director at digital solutions company Appscore, says junior project analyst Rich Gregory was accelerated to a leadership role within two years at the company, as he had a swag of these attributes.

“Much of it was based on gut instinct,” Louey says. “Rich has indeed proven to be a great leader and has become an integral part of my executive team, moving to digital producer and then to head of project delivery.”

We placed Rich in some very challenging roles well outside what he should have been capable of.

Put them to the test

Once you have identified an employee to manage the business in the future, trial their skills with a challenging project to see how they work under pressure.

Look for whether they are accountable for their actions, have strong communication skills and can manage multiple priorities.

As Louey says, “We placed Rich in some very challenging roles well outside what he should have been capable of, and he excelled at it.”

Set up a plan

Implementing a succession or leadership plan can help senior staff members begin making their mark and steering the direction of the business early on.

Matthew Torney, partner at Muirfield Financial Services, says it was vital to have a formal plan in place once the firm identified financial planner Melinda Planken as a top candidate to lead the business into the future.

Planken joined Muirfield in 2006 as a graduate and started off in a para-planner role before moving on to become a certified financial planner managing a team of 12, an accredited aged-care specialist and an equity partner in the business.

To kick off the process, Muirfield engaged a business consultant, who Torney says provided clarity, confirmation and structure to the succession plan.

Planken then underwent several interviews to confirm her suitability, assess her commitment and develop the firm’s plan for her and the business. 

“We found the formal plan assisted the business to prepare for the future and transition a leading staff member into a management position. The process could not have been more successful or enjoyable for all parties,” Torney says.

Heather Jennings

Heather Jennings is a Sydney-based journalist who writes about technology, finance and business for publishers including ninemsn, Yahoo7 and Thomson Reuters.