How to Identify Up and Coming Leaders: 25 Things to Look For

Whether you are a Company Commander, a business owner or the CEO of a major corporation, you are usually on the lookout for potential future leaders.

While leaders are not necessarily born with the abilities, there are certain traits a person should possess to have the ability to lead others.

When we look at any organization, we will find good leaders and bad leaders.

Is there a way we can determine which role a leader will take?

I believe we can look for certain substance, but sometimes good leaders turn into bad leaders.

So, the leaders of those leaders should also take a close look at their own leadership abilities.

But, that is a completely different subject.

In today’s post, I am going to list 25 things to look for to help you identify up and coming leaders.

As a bonus, I am also going to provide 7 traits that should disqualify a person from a leadership role.

You may disagree with my findings, and I would love to hear why.

You can do so at the end of this post in the comments area.

Now let’s look at 25 things to look for in future leaders.

1: Look at their potential and not their performance

This may seem odd, but your future leader just may not be very good at filing papers or digging holes.

Just because he/she cannot do well at those things does not mean they won’t make a good leader.

Personally, I look not at the performance, but the willingness.

2: Are they reliable?

Simply put, do they show up to appointments on time?

Do they get their duties done in the time allotted?

If a person is not reliable as a worker, how can they be reliable as a leader?

3: Are the engaged?

The people that are truly engaged by asking questions in meetings and approaching leaders with ideas are usually the people who make great leaders.

4: Open to suggestions

Potential leaders are open to suggestions.

The suggestion may not work for them, but they are willing to try.

5: Are they a catalyst?

The potential leader should be a catalyst that is always at work to make things better for the organization.

Are they a catalyst, or do they wait and watch to just fall into place?

6: Not a complainer

Let’s face it: those people who are always complaining just do not make good leaders.

7: Accountable

We all make mistakes.

If the potential leader is willing to own up to, and admit mistakes he/she made, there is a great chance they will make a wonderful leader.

8: Has a sense of humor

While leadership responsibilities require a high level of seriousness, great leaders are able to laugh at times.

Does the person have a sense of humor and know when to be humorous and when to be serious?

9: The ability to multitask

Leadership positions require that the person can do several tasks at the same time.

I suggest you give the potential leader some extra tasks and see how they manage under the conditions.

Can they multitask?

10: Are they visible and approachable?

This is an important sign of a potential leader.

Can they be located?

Do others have no issue with approaching them?

This is an issue with many leaders; they are not approachable.

11: Have the ability to perform well in team conditions

Leaders lead teams. If the person does not do well in team conditions, how will they be able to lead a team?

12: Sets goals

If the person has enough care about themselves to set goals, they will probably make a good leader.

13: Helper

Leaders should be willing to help even when the one they are helping is outside their area.

Is your potential leader like this?

14: Always focused

While the person you are considering for a leadership position is highly focused first thing in the morning, does the same hold true at 3 PM?

Leaders need to be focused at all times.

15: Introverted or extroverted?

This is an area where some may disagree with me.

But as leaders, we must deal with people and situations.

I will not say an introverted person cannot lead people… They can!

But, they must set that introverted part to the side and learn how to deal with people.

16: Composed

Does the individual stay cool and composed even when getting a butt-chewing?

Are they composed when a General enters?

The best leaders stay composed no matter the circumstances.

It makes me picture Stonewall Jackson who was composed as bullets whizzed past him.

He kept leading!

17: Has the ability to communicate

Communication is a key factor in leadership.

A potential leader must have communication ability.

They need to be able to listen and respond accordingly.

18: Dresses for success

A soldier that dresses properly with boots shined and everything according to Army standards is a better choice for a leadership position than the soldier who is always getting rebuked for their uniform being out of place.

19: Has integrity

Personally, I believe this is a no-brainer.

You want leaders who have a moral integrity.

They will not lie, cheat or steal.

They are morally upright in all ways.

20: Problem solver

Another good sign of a potential leader is the person who is always looking for a way to solve problems.

They may not always find the answer, but they are trying to mend the issues.

Leadership is about solving problems.

21: Has good judgment

While a person may not always make the right decisions, we can weigh their abilities by the amount of good decisions they do make.

You can measure potential leaders by their judgment calls.

22: They are humble

Arrogance and leadership are similar to oil and water.

We need humble leaders.

I recently wrote a post about how to be a humble leader.

23: Is competent

This may seem like a contradiction to #1, but it isn’t.

What you should look at is their competence to lead; their competence to follow orders, and their competence to being a United States Army servant.

This is your judgment call…Is he/she competent?

24: Persistent

A great signal of a possible future leader is their persistence.

Are they persistent?

If they are, they may be a great leader.

25: Has a future vision

This somewhat goes along with having goals.

Does your potential leader have a distant and close vision for their career, the Army and their family.

While their vision may not exactly match the vision the organization has, just having a vision is a good sign this person will be a great leader.

Now as a bonus, I am going to provide 7 traits that should disqualify people from becoming leaders until they are able to change these traits.

1: Now, not future

If the person you are considering is never looking at the future, just the here and now, that could be a sign they will not make a good leader.

Leaders need to have future visions.

2: It was their fault

If a person is always blaming errors and mistakes on other people or situations, this is a good sign that they should not be a leader.

Leaders realize that mistakes are ultimately their fault, and they will admit to that.

3: Cannot lead themselves or their home

Many corporations will do a credit check on potential leaders before hiring them.


Because it is a good signal if they can manage their own affairs.

If a person cannot manage their own affairs (themselves, their family and their finances), how will they manage other people’s affairs?

And, how will they handle Army budgets?

4: Not fully committed

A person needs to go all-in, or they just will not make a good leader.

Wishy-washy and leadership do not go together.

5: The know-it-all

These are those people who seem to know everything about anything.

We all probably know one or two of these people.

Until they realize that they really do not know much, they will not make a good leader.

6: Is not adaptable

Change can be difficult, but it is normally the best thing for the organization and the people within.

We may not be able to understand immediately how this change can help, but we do need to adapt and give the change a chance to work.

Potential leaders need to easily adapt with changes.

7: Always on the defensive

These are those people that just seem guilty at all times.

“It wasn’t me.” and “I didn’t do it.”

I suggest that these overly defensive people do not be allowed to be leaders.

Final Thoughts

So, let’s hear your opinions.

Do you agree or disagree?

What do you look for in potential leaders?

You can leave your comments and questions below.

Thank you.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

  1. 12 Common Army Leadership Mistakes
  2. Being Calm, Cool and Collected: Leadership Tip for Army Leaders
  3. How to Develop Your Military Leadership Skills: 13 Ways to Do It
chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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2 thoughts on “How to Identify Up and Coming Leaders: 25 Things to Look For”

  1. I will say I am enjoying your articles throughout your site. They are informative and insightful. I am going to recommend your site to several junior leaders in my unit. Again Great Job

    1. Johndel Callora

      I agree with you Will. Not only its enjoyable but it is also very informative. All those young aspiring men and women who want to be in the military will learn a lot by reading the blogs.

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