A Blog by John Bossong

4 Leadership Traits That Help You Identify and Evaluate Future Leaders

One of the most difficult things a leader does is identify and find people who can be groomed into future leaders.  It sounds easy, but it’s not.

What traits and skills do you look for?  What attributes does an effective leader need?  What personality type should a leader have?

Leadership succession planning is extremely important.  Tapping the wrong person for a key position can be a costly mistake.

Author Dave Ramsey in his book EntreLeadership says organizations tend to hire and promote people to quickly.  They get trapped in an urgent situation (in other words, I’m overloaded and doing the work of two people) and need to fill a position.  So, they hire someone just to fill a spot.  Proactive planning is the key.

If you wait until you need to hire, it’s too late.  You should already know when and the qualities you are looking for.

Four Traits To Look For In Evaluating Future Leaders

1. The ability to get things done.  Look for individuals who have the ability to execute a plan or vision.  You need someone who can implement and make it happen.

2. The ability to align people.  Getting people moving in the same direction.  The leader needs to align the team with the vision of the organization.  A leader doesn’t organize, a leader aligns people.

3. Future positions.   Look for a leader that isn’t just going to fill the current position and is done leading.  You are not hiring them for their final position.

4. A lot of experiences.  Look at the persons past work experience.  Most good leaders have operated real P&L units in different companies or industries.  What exposure have they had?

These four traits certainly don’t guarantee success.  Leadership is complicated and has many nuances.

There are several good tests that individuals can take to determine if they have certain personality traits and characteristics geared for leadership.   Contact your human resources department to determine the best leadership testing available and applicable.

The more information you have the better.  The tests won’t tell you everything.  Neither do the four traits I’ve listed.  But, they do give you a guideline.   Spend a lot of time interviewing and communicating.  Don’t rush into a decision just to fill a position.

What other traits would you add to the list?  What traits make a leader successful?


  1. Some great elements to look for, John. Having someone who aligns with your culture and integrity of leading are also essential. Adding value to the culture is critical. Too often, we read of new leaders coming in and demolishing a good culture. If the culture is strong and effective, then it needs to be supported with the right continuing leadership. Thanks! Jon

    • Jon,

      Great point. I agree, if you bring someone in that isn’t a cultural fit, I don’t care how good their skills and abilities are. It will be a struggle. Thanks for the comment, great point!



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