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How to Identify Emerging Leaders Using the 15-Trait Criteria

Good leadership can make or break an organization. From setting the tone for the team to creating a functional environment, leaders can make a 180-degree change to any organization within a month. However, locating and finding these leaders can be a daunting task. 

There are so many amazing people with some of the most exceptional traits out there, so how do you find the ones who have leadership potential? Are there any particular traits and qualities that all emerging leaders exhibit? Do organizations need to put these leaders to the test before they can promote them? Can organizations make mistakes when identifying these leaders?

Before we delve into these particulars, let’s just get something straight. Emerging leaders are rare. There are very few people willing to put their heart and soul into something they believe in. If you want to find these rare jewels, continue reading ahead. 

Who Is an Emerging Leader?

Emerging leaders are high achievers within an organization that show leadership potential. These people tend to rise to the occasion, especially when a crisis hits. They are not appointed leaders, but they are still found helping, or even leading their peers or team members to success. However, this may just be a textbook definition; there is more to the story. 

how to identify emerging leaders

Why Are Emerging Leaders Important to the World?

Emerging leaders are visionaries and exceed their potential. They have a clear vision in their mind and have the capability and the determination to follow a clear path. They thus help contribute a lot to the world. 

1. Emerging Leaders Ensure a Coherent Environment

Whether they are working in an office or a social organization, emerging leaders will always contribute to making an environment coherent and comfortable to work in. They do this by cooperating with team members, the upper management, and the helping staff. By inculcating a safe and healthy environment, they can make working in the office a good experience for everyone involved. 

Now, you may be wondering how can an emerging leader create such an impact. It is quite simple. They do it by doing more than they are expected to. They are conflict resolvers and will step up whenever there is a dispute or conflict among their teammates. They also know how to fix toxic environment during crisis. 

2. Emerging Leaders Help Uplift Others

Sarah may be more experienced and more qualified than Tommy, but that does not give Sarah the authority to ridicule or make fun of Tommy. Emerging leaders will never feel the need to degrade other people, so they can uplift themselves. On the contrary, they will always cheer others and ensure everyone is fulfilling their utmost potential. 

Additionally, emerging leaders possess traits like high self-esteem. They rarely feel jealous of other people’s accomplishments. They also don’t fear others’ success and don’t involve themselves in vicious cycles of competition and confrontation. They will try to do their best and help others achieve success too. 

3. Emerging Leaders Present a Fresh Perspective on Old Issues

Imagine an individual working in United Nations- an organization responsible for the interconnectivity between countries. A potential leader working in the UN has two options. They can either go with the norms and do what has been done forever. This may help countries resolve disputes and come together for common goals. 

However, the emerging leader would be one who can think of new ways to improve this interconnectivity. They will think of ways to help countries come together even when there is no conflict. 

4. Emerging Leaders Ensure a Forward-Thinking Society

Most people, especially world leaders, are fixated on the past. From Imran Khan talking about the past glory of Muslims to Donald Trump reminiscing over the greatness of America in the past, there are very few leaders who can look to the future. Potential leaders are different. They can imagine a different future and work towards achieving a better world for everybody. 

Moreover, rather than making decisions on a whim, they can use data and research to make accurate predictions. This type of forward-thinking makes them gain prominence in their organization, and subsequently, in the society, they live in. They have cracked the code to why leaders make bad decisions, and they avoid these behaviors. 

5. Emerging Leaders Are a Catalyst for Social Change

Since A has always been present in the social fabric of society, it should continue to be present for all times to come. This way of thinking has allowed disastrous traditions and norms to exist within society for ages. A good example of this would be the objectification of women, misogyny, or tax cuts for the rich. 

However, just because something has worked in the past does not mean it’s right. Emerging leaders can see through this facade and recognize social problems in their entirety. They are not push-overs and are not looking for validation from society. 

They challenge the status quo and work towards bringing social change, whether it is limited to just their organization or spreads over a larger area, they just never back down from a fight. 

What Are the Traits of an Emerging Leader?

Emerging leaders have a coherent personality backed by a determination to exceed expectations. They are also enthusiastic about their work and can stand out in a crowd. Here are the traits that almost all emerging leaders possess. 

  • Solid personality backed by consistency
  • Creating value for the organization or society
  • Continuously learning and improving
  • Coming up with alternatives
  • Risk-taking and courageous
  • Re-inventing and re-imagining things
  • Cultivating talent and imparting vision
  • Showing resilience in the face of hardships
  • Filling the leadership vacuum where needed
  • Having influence and inspiring others
  • Taking initiatives to fulfil a vision
  • Having good people-skills
  • Taking accountability for their actions
  • Team player: does not take all the credit
  • Knowledgeable about the market

1. Solid Personality Backed by Consistency

When it comes to emerging leaders, personality matters more than anything else. It matters more than their age, their gender, their level of experience, and their motivation in life. A solid personality would entail attributes like honesty, integrity, resilience, and self-confidence. 

It can also include traits like punctuality, courage, and greater self-accountability, but these traits are all secondary. An emerging leader needs to showcase consistency. In their best and worst moments, they should never lose the sense of themselves and stay true to themselves; this is more important than any individual trait. 

2. Creating Value for the Organization or Society

Whether they are working in a small organization or an international one, emerging leaders will always add significant value to an organization. Now, you may wonder, don’t all employees add value? What makes emerging leaders different? The answer is simple, their presence in the organization has a significant impact on how the organization is being run. Their absence would impact the outcomes, quite significantly, too. 

So if you are unsure of whether someone is an emerging leader, try imagining that organization without the said person. You will get your answer immediately. 

3. Continuously Learning and Improving

One of the things that separate ordinary employees from emerging leaders is the latter’s ability to continuously move forward. Most people will adapt to their role and then never transform into anything else. Stagnancy becomes a norm for them, and they never try to get out of their shells. Emerging leaders are different. 

They continuously take in their surroundings and adapt accordingly. Take the example of a debater who was heading his school team. When covid hit, he realized that he would have to train his team, so they can handle zoom tournaments. His ability to learn from the environment helped his team continue their winning spree in online tournaments. 

4. Coming up With Alternatives

Even the best options can sometimes fail; good leaders can see through the flaws that others miss. They don’t sit down and sulk over failed opportunities and chances. They take charge and present their team with better alternatives. This is important because leaders don’t have time to be sad over failures. They need to act quickly. 

The ability to see something through a wide range of angles and sides is a trademark quality of potential leaders. They can come up with alternative options that can benefit the organization the same way the original plan would have. 

5. Risk-Taking and Courageous Outlook

Molly and Hansel are two employees of the same company. Both exhibit a lot of strong leadership qualities. They are popular among their team members and garner a good amount of influence. Hansel does what he is told and seldom challenges the status quo. He likes things working according to the norms of the organization.

On the other hand, Molly is a risk-taker. She assesses the market frequently and looks out for ways that she can improve the revenue of the company. She comes up with bold new ideas for the upper management to review. Some of her ideas fail, but most succeed. Who do you think would make a better emerging leader?

6. Reinventing and Reimagining Things

The sky is blue, and the grass is green, everybody knows that. But what if we imagine the sky to be green and the grass to be blue, would that be possible? Certainly yes. The biggest innovations in the world were possible because people like the Wright brothers imagined things differently. They could look beyond the obvious and come up with something that shocked the entire world.

Emerging leaders do the same thing. They can imagine unpredictable and unimaginative scenarios in their head. Not just that, but they also dare to then pursue their ideas and do the unthinkable. This is what sets them apart from the crowd. 

7. Cultivating Talent and Imparting Wisdom

Knowledge increases when shared; anyone who believes differently can not be a great leader. People who lack self-esteem will often consider everyone a challenge. They will be fearful of imparting their acquired knowledge and wisdom in fear that someone else will surpass their position. This way of thinking is counterintuitive to how an emerging leader should behave. 

Great leaders have never shied away from sharing their knowledge; they consider this their moral and ethical duty. When looking for emerging leaders, you can always look for people who are helping their team members and teaching them new ways to do their tasks better. These are the people that will lead your company to success. 

8. Showing Resilience in the Face of Hardships

Like periods of success, every organization will experience multiple periods of hardships and crises. Most employees will look for other jobs when a crisis hits a company, but there will be some who will think selflessly and show resilience when faced with hardships. Rather than taking their boat and sailing away, these emerging leaders will try and find a way to save the entire crew. 

Resilience does not always equate to finding solutions to a problem. It can be as simple as not giving up when all hope is lost. People who remain optimistic during hardships are people you need to look out for. 

9. Filling the Leadership Vacuum Where Needed

Some people are born leaders; they don’t need any instructions when it comes to taking up leadership positions. They will rise to the occasion whenever the opportunity presents itself. Emerging leaders fulfill the leadership vacuum in organizations. In the absence of managers or upper hierarchy, these people will automatically take the lead and manage everything. 

Imagine a scenario where the upper management has to go to an event or an international trip on an urgent basis. This leaves a leadership vacuum in the office. There will always be someone others will look up to. They will lead the team, even if they are not in any leadership position yet. 

10. Having Influence and Inspiring Others

There will always be some people who stand out in the crowd. These will command a room without even trying. In any organization, there will be some employees more respected than others. These are the ones known for having exemplary personalities and great skills, but there is no fixed criterion for these people. 

Sometimes, this includes employees with the most experience. Other times, it includes people who can listen like a leader. But regardless of the attributes, these are the people who inspire everyone else to do better and reach for the stars. 

11. Taking initiatives to fulfill a Vision

An organization might be looking for a 20% annual growth in its sales. However, there may be an individual who believes that the organization can easily achieve 50% growth by simply improving its packaging. Such emerging leaders don’t just envision a different outcome, they also take initiatives that allow the company to work towards that goal. 

These leaders will plan ahead of their meeting with the upper hierarchy. From designing the new packaging to creating a PowerPoint presentation, they will do everything to convince the manager to take the new initiative. And in most scenarios, the manager takes up the idea and the organization can increase its growth. 

12. Having Good People-Skills

Create the perfect pasta platter. Add the pasta, milk, cream, and cheese. Garnish it with pepper, oregano and coriander, would anyone like the pasta? Certainly not. It is missing one of the most important ingredients: salt. Similarly, you can be the perfect individual with all the right qualities that make you an emerging leader. However, unless you have good people skills, you will not be considered for a leadership position. 

Good people skills ensure that the leader can connect with their team and inspire them to do better. It also makes a person a better orator, somebody who can command a room without trying much. Without good people skills, leaders can not convince others to share their vision or get on board with their plans. 

13. Taking Accountability for Their Actions

Leaders need to be relatable. If they have the ‘holier than thou attitude’ , and are not willing to accept their mistakes, no one is going to respect them. And trust in leadership is absolutely important. 

Take the example of Sam. Sam made a terrible decision and the organization had to pay for his mistakes. Now, he has three options. 

• He can deny responsibility and try to convince others that the decision was never really his. 

• He can blame someone else for the losses the company had to incur. 

• He can be humble, accept his responsibility and try to ensure everyone that it was an honest mistake. 

The first two options might get him out of trouble, but they will paint him as a terrible person. The latter will make others trust him more, with their tasks and the future of their organization. 

14. Team-Player: Does not try to take all the credit

No one likes a know-it-all. Some people may know more than others and have more contributions to offer. They might have worked extra hard to ensure the success of a task. However, if they disregard everyone else’s contribution and only fixate on what they did, they will not be considered a team-player. 

The need to have your work validated is strong in most people, however, emerging leaders can rise above their petty jealousies and look at the bigger picture. They are confident in their position and worth in an organization and don’t make a point to embarrass their teammates. 

Additionally, people who credit the entire team for a task are more likely to be accepted as a leader in the future. 

15. Knowledgeable About the Market

Last, but not least, emerging leaders need to be keen observers of market trends. Whether they work for a social organization, a political one, or an economic one, knowledge about the surroundings is extremely important. Emerging leaders can assess market trends and make decisions accordingly. 

Moreover, they treat objective data as their best friend. Rather than focusing on their intuition alone, they focus on what the trends, graphs, and analysts are saying. This makes them less prone to making mistakes and better at ensuring success in the market. 

how to identify emerging leaders

Why Is It Important to Identify Emerging Leaders in a Workplace?

1. Improves Your Organization’s Image

Companies that cultivate a healthy environment that enhances people’s ability gets more recognition in the market. Potential candidates will want to choose the organization because there is a greater chance of upward social mobility there. All this contributes to a better organizational image. 

Moreover, it ensures that your organization is considered an unbiased place. Most companies will hire people on recommendations or based on connections. When people find out that you are actively looking for emerging leaders from within your mix, they will have greater respect for you and your brand. 

2. Allows You to Get Managers From Within Your Organization

Imagine a company that is looking to branch out into multiple cities. It can take one of two roads. It can either conduct extensive interviews or hire managers from outside. This is a risk because these new hires will need time to adjust to the workplace environment. 

The other option is for organizations to look for potential managers and leaders from within their mix. This ensures that people who are promoted already know the ins and outs of your business. Moreover, it ensures that the new managers can invoke trust in leadership and enjoy a good rapport with the team. 

3. Puts Your Organization at an Upward Trajectory

Having people who own up to your company and think outside the box is important. With the right encouragement, they can turn the tables for you. These emerging leaders will want to work twice as hard for more recognition. They may have their eyes on the prize, but that won’t stop them from taking new initiatives and increasing the revenue for the company. 

You will subsequently have more and more employees coming up with brand-new ways to make a name for themselves. They will cultivate better relationships with their colleagues and their employees, hoping that a better rapport will help them secure a place at the leadership table. 

4. Increases Employee Retention

Most people join organizations for a couple of years and move to better jobs as soon as the opportunity arises. If you don’t want employees to treat your organization as a mere commodity or as means to an end, you have to give them real hope for promotion. 

Most employees will make a tradeoff of more money in exchange for a good leadership position. If you don’t have an office environment that incentivizes people to showcase their talent, you can expect low employee retention in the long run. 

5. Incentivizes Diversity in the Workplace

Most organizations will ensure diversity during the hiring of new employees, but these new hires never get a chance to move up the ladder. They are rarely considered for leadership roles. 

When people realize that the company is not giving out positions based on favoritism or in-built prejudice, they will work more passionately for the company. Since there is a greater chance of an unbiased and objective selection, you can expect a lot of diversity in the workplace. Diversity not only contributes to a better image, but also improves the soft power of the organization. 

How Can You Identify Emerging Leaders in Your Workplace?

1. Personality: Does The Leader Exhibit Leadership Qualities?

There are many metrics to judge somebody’s leadership potential. You need to weigh someone by the traits your company needs. If you are a high-end sales team, you need someone who is creative and can cultivate a good relationship with clients. If you are an IT company, you need someone with great acumen and a keen understanding of market dynamics.

Additionally, if you work in the advertising industry, you need an extremely eloquent person who can work with the toughest of clients. Apart from specific qualities, make sure any potential leader showcases qualities of honesty, integrity, courage, resilience, high morality, and a good sense of right and wrong. 

2. What Motivates Them to Work? 

When assessing motivations, you may only consider people who are motivated to make a mark in society. You may reject anyone whose primary motivation is more money. However, this is an unrealistic approach. 

Although people like the additional responsibility and power that comes with it, most people would also need the monetary incentive. So make sure you don’t jump on the bandwagon and simply reject people who want to make a better life for themselves. 

3. What Are Their Goals and Aspirations in Life?

Most people who work in IT companies are only doing it to make a living. They are waiting for a better opportunity to hit them, and they will leave their organization right away. It is justified for them to do so, however, you need to realize the goals and aspirations of people before you promote them to a leadership position. 

You certainly don’t want someone working with you half-heartedly. Always look for people who are passionate about their jobs and have a vision that aligns with the vision of the company. 

4. Do They Exhibit Leadership Qualities in Times of Crisis?

It is easy to show strength when things are going well or when the company is doing well in the market. However, most people fail miserably when they have to face a crisis. The market is volatile, it keeps changing every week; sometimes every day. 

You don’t want somebody with a faint heart working for you. Make sure you consider people who can show all the best leadership qualities like resilience and courage in times of crisis. 

6 steps for Identifying Emerging Leaders

Step 1: Make a List of the Qualities You Want

Think of all the things that are important to your organization. Make them in a list form and ensure that whenever you are considering somebody, they fall on the basic criteria. However, this is just a rough idea of what you want. You may come across someone extraordinary that lacks one or two qualities; don’t just reject them. There may be more to them than can see to the eye. 

Step 2: Observe and Gather Data

Make sure you gather as much data as possible. This can be observing the footage from cameras installed in the workplace. This will tell you how the potential leader treats their colleague in the absence of upper management. You can also talk to other employees to know their viewpoints about the person in question. This will help you get an objective sense of whom the person is. 

Step 3: Put Them to the Test

You must test them a couple of times to see whether they are worth their salt or not. For example, when dealing with a crisis, give the command to the potential leader and see how they handle the situation. They will either rise to the occasion or mess up the whole thing. The way they handle a crisis will help you make a decision. 

Step 5: Train Them to See if They Improve

If you see potential in somebody, don’t just leave them at the mercy of themselves. Step forward and make an active effort to teach and train them. Spend time with them and impart your wisdom and knowledge to them. As someone who has had more experience in the same job, your words and your guidance can be a game changer for them. 

Step 4: Start Small and See if They Succeed

Most organizations don’t just hand out leadership positions. They will first appoint people on probation and then see whether they are fit to lead. The probation period should ideally last for 3 months. This is adequate time to see how well the person deals with a diverse set of situations. It also tells you whether the leader takes any initiative or simply maintains the status quo. 

Step 6: Give Them a Leadership Position

If they succeed in all the earlier steps, it is time for you to hold your end of the bargain and give them a leadership position. Remember that hesitance and doubt when appointing somebody can ruin your image as the head of an organization. If you want people to do better and take initiative, you will have to give people with potential actual leadership roles. 

how to identify emerging leaders

What Are the Common Mistakes People Make When Identifying Emerging Leaders?

1. Always Using a Fixed Criterion

People are not machines. You can not judge humans based on how many handles they have or how durable they are. You need to look beyond objective criteria and judge everyone on their own merits. True, some organizations require particular skill sets like eloquence, market knowledge, and computer literacy, but these should not be the only factors on which organizations judge people. 

Most organizations will not assess emerging leaders individually. They will follow a textbook or a checklist criteria made by the Human Resources department. This is counterintuitive because the most unexpected of people can surprise you. 

2. Inadequate Testing of the Emerging Leader

It is tempting to put people into managerial positions the minute they show the first signs of leadership. The upper management can cut their work in half by simply promoting someone who is just adequate. However, you do not just want someone who can fit the role, you want someone extraordinary. 

This requires adequate testing of the potential leader. Most organizations will not put these leaders into potentially conflicting and disastrous situations to see how well they handle situations. Quick promotion of emerging leaders will put you and your entire organization in jeopardy. 

3. Mistaking Popularity With Leadership Potential

Hanks and Anna are working in an organization for 2 years. When Hanks walks into a room, he is greeted by almost everyone sitting in their cubicles. He greets them back and exchanges pleasantries with quite a few people. Moreover, his presence brings smiles to everyone’s faces. When Hanks goes back to his cubicle, he struggles to understand his tasks and often requires others’ help to complete his assignments. 

Anna is friendly and lightly greets her friends when she walks into the office. She has a pleasant smile and is respected by everyone. However, she does not stop chit-chatting with anyone in the office. However, when she goes back to her cubicle, she has people coming to her from every department, asking for her help. 

Most organizations would label Hanks as an ’emerging leader’, never realizing that popularity does not equal leadership.

4. Mistaking Niche-Specific Skills as Managerial Skills

When working in an organization, you may notice that most people are great at their jobs. You would have engineers working tirelessly to improve the mechanics of products. You would have the IT department helping fix everyone’s computer-related issues. You might notice the accountants managing finances to perfection. 

However, you don’t lead leaders who are good at a particular niche. You want people who can effortlessly command any room they enter. You want people who are experts in their fields, but also have surface-level knowledge of other people’s fields. You want somebody who can manage everyone else without anyone questioning their expertise. 

5. Letting Their Subjective Bias Influence Their Decisions

Prejudice and discrimination are frowned upon. Most people realize that it is abhorrent to prefer people because of ingrained preferences. However, subjective bias often makes you take wrong decisions. Most organizations let their subjectivity influence their decision without ever realizing their mistake.

For example, when upper management has to decide between a male and female leader, they are more likely to pick the former. This is because they have been taught to believe that men are more result-oriented and can command more authority. Failure to check this bias can lead you to make a big mistake. 

What Is the Cost of Not Identifying Emerging Leaders in an Organization?

1. Organization Remains Stagnant

Organizations that are content with having their employees work daily without taking any initiatives tend to remain stagnant, even if they have more experience than other bigger companies. One of the biggest reasons why you should consciously look for emerging leaders from within your mix is that it helps you grow. 

2. Employees Become Quiet-Quitters

Anyone who uses Instagram must be aware of this new trend called ‘quiet quitting’. People may be using it jokingly, but it is slowly becoming a movement. Quiet quitting is when employees do the bare minimum at their job. They realize that their organization treats them as a mere commodity and are indifferent to their well-being. This makes them reciprocate the same attitude; they stop taking ownership of the company and start treating it as a ‘means to an end’. 

3. Fewer Incentives for People to Improve

You don’t simply look for emerging leaders out of curiosity, you do this because you want to give these people a promotion, a raise, or at least recognition. This is a great incentive for employees to make the extra effort and try to stand out in the crowd. When you take this incentive away, you make people feel less motivated and less enthusiastic about their jobs. If everybody is treated equally, despite the extra efforts they put in, why would anyone try to do better?

4. New Ideas Get Suppressed

Emerging leaders want to add value to an organization; they will always be looking to present new ideas and take new initiatives. Companies that don’t appreciate these potential leaders end up suppressing many good ideas: ideas that might have helped them become a more competitive organization. 

5. Don’t Foster a Creative Environment

Open any textbook, and you would realize that good leadership can only thrive in a healthy and creative environment. When you take the external factors out of the picture, you are left with somebody who has all the potential and no means to fulfill that potential. An organization that does not go the extra mile to promote and appreciate creativity will never have anyone bringing substantial change. 

What Are the Qualities That May Identify You as an Emerging Leader?

• You exert significant influence on others

• You adopt a supervisory role automatically

• Other employees come to you with problems

• You have exemplary people-skills

• You are continuously learning and growing

• You are good at articulation and argumentation

• You have a set of core beliefs that match the organization’s vision

• You are optimistic in the face of crisis

Best Diplomats Can Lead Your Way From an Emerging Leader to a Real One

The world is full of people with a lot of potentials, but most don’t have the means to realize their worth. Due to a lack of guidance and training, they end up living mediocre and average lives, never realizing how amazing they could be. 

If you want to be seen by your head or your CEO, you need to do more than just think. You need to take a step forward. Best Diplomats, an organization known for transforming people from employees to leaders, can help you kick-start your journey. 

how to identify emerging leaders

Through its well-thought conferences and training, you can learn all the dos and don’ts of leadership in just three days. You will not only get to break shackles and become more articulate, but you will also get the opportunity to lead a team. Through diplomacy and statesmanship, you can become a leader overnight. You just have to trust your gut. For more information on how Best Diplomats can help you in your quest for a leadership position, register here. 


Finding good leaders is like finding a warm blanket on a cold, icy night. It is not necessary, but can also put you at ease. When heading your organization, you need to be on the lookout for people who can share your burden and make it easier for you to transform your company. 

These people will have the potential to revolutionize your company; all you have to do is find them from amongst your midst. 


How Management Can Identify or Develop Good Leaders Within the Organization?

You can’t find good leaders within an organization if you don’t make a conscious effort to do so. These emerging leaders won’t just magically pop out of nowhere. You have to put considerable effort into the process. This includes giving people opportunities to rise to the occasion, handle a crisis, or foster a creative environment where potential leaders can thrive. 

What Are Three Emerging Approaches to Leadership?

There are many approaches to leadership, but these four approaches have gained significant clout in recent times. These include
• Servant leadership
• Transformational leadership
• Authentic leadership
• Spiritual leadership

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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