Don't promote your best

Read Time: 2 minutes

Tamara Morton | March 30th, 2022


How many times have you seen the best employee in their technical field tapped on the shoulder to take on the next leadership role?

It seems like a rational approach to succession planning, right? You scan your workforce and find out who is the best at the role, be it sales, software programming or concreting, make that individual a leader and hopefully, the skills rub off and the team ends up replicating their new leader's previous performance in the role.

Where it goes wrong

While your star employee may be proficient at a technical level, often that does not translate to leadership capability. Sometimes the factors that make employees successful in their technical roles are the opposite of those which make them successful leaders.

Take sales for example, during a sales pitch with a prospective client, charismatic and spontaneous behaviour can lead to closing a sale but as a sales manager, leading people, this behaviour may result in confusion around the process or role expectations and instability within the team.

So with that in mind, what should we look for in potential leaders?

Values modelling

  1. Does your prospective leader not only align with but also model your organisational values?  This can be represented in how they speak, act and the way in which they work.


  1. Do they clearly and consistently communicate with all necessary levels, both internal and external to your organisation?
  2. Does your potential leader demonstrate the capability or potential capability to deliver both positive and constructive feedback?


  1. Have you seen your potential leader share information across your organisation?
  2. Do they ask questions and take action to understand and empathise with others?
  3. Do they proactively contribute towards the achievement of collective goals?

Continuous improvement

  1. Have you seen your potential leader demonstrate openness to improving and learning?
  2. Do they respond to feedback and opportunities for improvement?


  1. Does your prospective leader deliver on what they say they will do?
  2. Have you seen them take responsibility for outcomes related to their actions or decisions? It is easy to be accountable when things go well, but the measure of true leadership is accepting responsibility when things don’t go as planned.

When selecting the next leader for your organisation keep in mind an employee who is great at their current role does not automatically result in an effective leader.

Keep an eye out for the above factors to identify your next high potential leader and develop those innate qualities with purposeful and consistent action For more on this take a look at deBa’s high-performance habits.

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