It's often said that it takes a certain type of person to be a great leader. These individuals exhibit qualities like passion, integrity, a take-charge attitude and the ability to inspire others. Employers and executives recognize this, and these "born leaders" are often first in line for promotions to leadership roles.
But people with leadership potential don't simply become leaders overnight. It's up to existing leaders to train the next generation, showing them how to guide a group of people toward a specific vision or goal.
Whether your company has a structured training program or you simply teach by example, here are a few key things to keep in mind when you're training future leaders. [5 Simple Ways to Become a Better Leader]
Choose the right people
While certain individuals may seem like shoe-ins for a leadership position based on their personality or their current role within a company, it's crucial to take all performance and experience factors into account before determining their leadership candidacy.
"Before you start teaching and enhancing the skills of a leader, you have to start with the right person," said Brian Sullivan, a vice president at sales and management training firm Sandler Training. "This person should have a track record of success [in their current role] and have already exhibited leadership traits. Not everything they'll be doing as a leader is necessarily something they've done before, but these two fundamental items are the springboard for any type of training."
Sullivan also told leaders not to allow favoritism to come into play when choosing a successor, and make a decision based solely on a candidate's qualifications.
Make sure they understand the business
A good leader must always be training the next generation of leaders, said Stephen Sheinbaum, founder of financial technology company Bizfi, which provides alternative finance for small businesses. To do this, leadership candidates need to be well-versed in where your business is headed, and what kinds of people and skills will be needed to make that happen.
"If a greater use of technology is going to be key to the future growth of your company, then you've got to make sure that your leaders understand that technology and its importance in your industry," Sheinbaum said. "They may not be the ones writing the code, but they have to know how to hire, communicate with and guide the coders that you will need."
Build their listening skills
One of the most important skills a leader can acquire is how to listen. A true leader always takes his or her team's feedback into account when making decisions. This skill can be taught by being a good listener yourself.
"Always listen to the input you receive, and act on it," said Guryan Tighe, a partner at Speakeasy Strategies public relations firm. "If you have only your own agenda in mind, you can't truly hear others' input and potentially, the next great idea. Make sure your business is set up to stimulate people around you to create and take initiative. For example, ask the trainees about their training experience, as this encourages an environment focused on growth and development."
Help them craft a future vision
"Vision" is a word that is commonly thrown around in reference to leaders, but what does it really mean? Denise Brosseau, CEO of Thought Leadership Lab, believes it involves the ability to inspire others to see a future worth striving for.
"[Leaders should] focus on crafting a compelling vision of the future that they will work to bring about," said Brosseau, author of "Ready to Be a Thought Leader?" (Jossey-Bass, 2014). "This future must be something they are passionate about, but they must also have the credibility and experience to make progress toward achieving it."
Teaching leadership candidates how to create and articulate their own future vision will help them when it comes time to actually execute plans to get there.
Look at their motivations
If a leadership candidate seems more excited about being "the boss" who's in charge of others, he or she probably isn't the best person for the job. A good leader knows that his or her job is working for everybody else, said Dale Falcinelli, chairman of the advisory council at Lehigh University's Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship.
"Leadership is an executive club, and it shouldn't be taken for granted," Falcinelli told Business News Daily. "Leaders aren't caught up with the notion of people working for them. They'll have the passion and drive to get where they need to go, and they'll know that to get there, they have to work for and through other people."
This article was originally published in 2014 and was updated Dec. 2, 2015.