Creating leaders in the early stages of employment

When you look at any team-orientated environment, particularly business, leaders play a pivotal role in the successful implementation and delivery of company goals and objectives. But what happens when a Manager, Director or Managing Director leaves the business? Should an organisation turn to outsource a new leader?  Such a leader may have little prior knowledge regarding the businesses’ organisational structure. So would hiring internally be more beneficial? This could facilitate a fluid and faster transitional period.  To that end should businesses be developing internal talent to create future leaders?

There is a growing multigenerational workforce and ageing population. As a result, many organisations will face the challenge of developing internal talent to create leaders. Those leaders must demonstrate flexibility and the ability to consistently innovate. Additionally, they must seamlessly adapt to the rapidly changing nature of business, technology and market drivers. It is for this reason that developing internal talent should begin from the onset of employment. This will improve the chances of sustaining a long and prosperous future for your business.


When starting within any organisation, new employees roles predominantly revolve around acting as a contributor to the company. This is particularly true for younger workers.  This process involves tasks being assigned to be completed within a given timeframe. From this, employees are given the opportunity to develop key working values. Values which include punctuality, reliability and delivering professional content.

Through the role of a contributor, employees can demonstrate the ability to adopt company standards. They can show they are able to handle responsibility and add real value to the business. These learned characteristics can provide the initial framework for moulding employees into future management material.

Employers should look to gradually increase each employee’s level of responsibility. The timeline should be dependent on their capabilities and passion for progressing further within the organisation. This is often a crucial stage for employers and employees alike. It helps determine which employees have the potential to lead the business into future success.

Project management

A natural progression for an employee who has demonstrated a proficiency in self-management is for the employer to challenge the employee further by making them responsible for a project. As a contributor, employees can become comfortable within tasks where they have found success. For this reason becoming a manager, with all its uncertainties can be such a daunting proposition.

Becoming responsible for a project, is, in effect where the employee begins to take on a management type role. Although without actually fully accepting the requirements that come with the title. This is an essential transitional stage. In this stage, the employee is given the opportunity to learn through experience. Thus making a behavioural transition from contributor to manager.

Management needs to demonstrate masterful people skills, which include both the ability to collaborate successfully with others and to take command of projects, delegating work and tasks strategically. Project managing will help determine whether an employee is socially adept enough to work alongside a variety of personalities, whilst getting the best out of people to achieve the objectives at hand.

Handing over the reigns

During the other two stages of employment, employees will have someone more senior overseeing and checking in with their progression on a project. At some point, however, employees need to put in a position where they must take responsibility.  They must get to the stage of making the important decisions themselves. It’s almost like taking the training wheels off their bike and allowing them to navigate down the path, trusting that their experiences thus far will aid them in making the right choices.

Whist employees are never truly left to their own devices, the proverbial ball is in their court with regards to feeding back their progress during critical stages in the timeline of a project. They should be made aware of the fact that help is at hand should they need it, but it is also a chance to determine whether the knowledge and experience they have acquired throughout their employment have prepared them for the challenges attributed with being a leader.

This is often a real test of character, in that it will assess the employee’s ability to communicate and interact with stakeholders from all levels, to be resourceful, decisive and rise up from any setbacks they may face. Additionally, it will establish whether they can put the needs of the business above the needs of their own, looking beyond what their job description dictates and considering the strategic issues that affect the business as a whole.

The end of the beginning

This is by no means an exhaustive guide on how an employee can jump from contributor to leader in just a few fateful steps, but rather a thought-provoking look into how employers can encourage their employees to take their raw natural ability and enhance it through training and experiential learning.

Being brilliant in your field isn’t enough to make you a successful leader. It requires more than knowledge about a particular field, but rather an ability to marry a desire to push oneself, to engage successfully with others and to immerse themselves in the values of the organisation in question.

This article was updated in November 2020

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Liverpool born Alan Price FCIPD, CMgr, FCMI is a successful entrepreneur and senior business figure. Alan is Employment Law and HR Director of Peninsula.

He is also managing director of Peninsula Ireland and Elected Director & Trustee for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development – CIPD.

Peninsula Business Services is the UK’s leading employment law, HR and Health & Safety service provider, with its headquarters based in Manchester.

Alan Price also sat for four years as a board director at The Chambers of Commerce Ireland and on their audit committee. Alan is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD with over 15 years’ experience in employee relations. He is also a non-Legal Lay Member of Employment Tribunals for the UK Ministry of Justice as well as a Chartered Manager and Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and Fellow of the Australian Human Resources Institute.