“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy. Take it from a former president: The key to developing leaders starts with a commitment to learning.

Fortunately, if you’ve arrived at this blog post, you understand that better than most. While you may be a great leader yourself, training new leaders can be a tall task — but don’t worry. We’re here to help. 

In this post, we’ll explore the tips, strategies, and soft skills you’ll need to train the next generation of team leaders that will help your business reach long-term success. 

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How to develop leaders

I think it’s safe to say that there’s no short, Google snippet-worthy answer for how to develop leaders. It’s a long, tedious process, and each prospective leader needs help in different areas to reach new heights. 

That said, there are a few basic steps you can take to train leaders.

Recognize people with leadership potential

If you’re here, chances are you’ve probably already identified some potential leaders who can lead your organization in the future. If you’re feeling some pressure and don’t know how to identify future leaders, here are a few things to look for:

  • Empathy. To manage people, leaders must be able to understand and connect with them. That’s probably why 90% of workers feel empathetic leadership leads to higher job satisfaction.
  • Emotional intelligence. A high IQ is a crucial leadership quality, but high emotional intelligence (EQ) is even more important. An effective leader won’t always be the smartest person in the room, but they’ll still need to leverage the intelligence of those around them. They also should prioritize DEI and employee experience.
  • Vision. A lot of leadership is grinding through the day-to-day and ensuring the team completes work on time — but teams still need direction. Great leaders have the foresight and vision of what the team needs to do for long-term success.
  • Integrity. On the topic of vision, integrity comes into play, too. Answering the immediate needs of higher-ups is the safe route, but sometimes leaders need to advocate for their team, ideas, and morals for the good of the business.
  • Confidence. Leaders won’t be able to manage SMEs, get others to buy into their vision, or have integrity without a bit of confidence. That said, a lack of confidence isn’t a deal breaker. Sometimes, the key to developing a great leader is instilling confidence in an otherwise perfect candidate.
  • Patience. Great leaders aren’t made overnight. Look for prospective leaders who are patient and self-aware enough to understand that. After all, they’ll one day lead an array of people who learn in different ways. 

In short, emotionally intelligent, patient, and compassionate leaders fit in almost any scenario. Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden sums it up best:

UCLA Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden shares thoughts on what makes a good leader

Mentor your potential leader

No person has mastered the most important leadership skills above without help from others. If you thrust someone into responsibilities they aren’t prepared for, you’re setting them up for failure. That’s why mentorship is so important. 

If you’re not sure how to mentor a potential leader, here are a few ways you can get them up to speed: 

  • Let them shadow you. While it might slow down your day-to-day for a while, have prospective leaders shadow you. Rope them into situations you face in your leadership role and explain the reasoning behind your decision-making. Some examples include interviews, quarterly planning, or executive meetings. 
  • Trust them in low-risk scenarios. Once they’ve shadowed you, start to give them more responsibilities. You might not want to hand off the annual budget to a newbie, but they could certainly benefit from leading a Sprint call.
  • Provide training. Record videos and screen captures of some of your work. You can also point prospective leaders toward different certifications and training to help them develop new skills.

While things may take a little longer, mentorship is crucial for developing emerging leaders. No great leader develops without a great teacher.  

Highlight the importance of soft skills

When searching for and training future leaders, it is easy to look to those who excel in their roles. However, this doesn’t always translate to excellent leadership.

While great leaders certainly shouldn’t be poor performers, there’s no direct correlation between being great at your job and being a great leader. That’s why it’s essential to help talented team members develop soft skills, like: 

  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution 
  • Patience
  • Listening
  • Negotiation 
  • Flexibility
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
Canva offers a compelling look at characteristics key to developing leaders

(Source: Canva creator

Take time to reflect

Training someone new can be a blur, so take time to reflect. Take notes, schedule frequent one-on-ones, and provide performance reviews so prospective leaders know how they’re doing. 

These interactions also allow them to ask questions and continue to learn new leadership qualities. 

Leadership development strategies

Now that we’ve identified some ways to mentor leaders, let’s explore how you can develop some long-term strategies to scale your leadership development processes. 

Mentorship Programs

Above, we mentioned some basic mentorship ideas. If you’re a leader for a larger organization, creating a formal, company-wide mentorship program is probably wise. Below are a few examples: 


Mastercard reinvented its mentorship program by matching like-minded individuals with similar career goals. Instead of prioritizing seniority as the be-all-end-all of mentorship, they’ve helped prospective leaders stay engaged by keeping them focused on the areas where they want to take their careers. 

New York Life

New York Life partnered with Together to create a mentorship program that considers DEI efforts. They chose to look deeper and pair prospective leaders with leaders from similarly diverse backgrounds. This strengthened the bond between mentor and mentee as they could find commonalities beyond the workplace and provide unique perspectives that others might not have been able to.  

Condé Nast

Condé Nast created a six-month mentorship program that allowed mentors and mentees to connect over shared interests, experiences, and personalities using MentorcliQ. To date, they report roughly 1,000 participants

Leadership Challenges

Leadership challenges are unavoidable and sometimes hard to prevent. Formal training could be the best option if you’re scaling a leadership development or mentorship program like the ones above.

Check out our Udemy course with Mike Gutman if you haven’t already. You can catch the video highlights in this YouTube video below or read more about it in this post.

Feedback and Evaluation

Providing feedback is crucial for growth — and that’s growth for prospective and current leaders.

At Hubstaff, we operate on the values of trust and transparency. That’s why we prioritize transparent leadership and 360-degree feedback, where leaders receive constructive feedback from their peers, subordinates, and supervisors.

While properly capturing feedback can be easier said than done, we use tools like Workleap and our Daily Stand-up tool. 

An example of Hubstaff's virtual Stand-up feature and how it can be used to help mentor young professionals

Self-Directed Learning

What should a mentee do if their boss or mentor is on PTO? What if they’re tied up with larger projects? Self-directed learning initiatives allow leaders a little space from the pressures of mentoring. But, like the old-adge “teach a man to fish,” these self-directed learning strategies require some training before they’re autonomous. 

Succession Planning

While we’ve stressed the importance of patience in developing leaders, sometimes there’s a sense of urgency when current leadership is moving on. That’s where succession planning comes into play.

If you work in a high-turnover industry, it’s wise to create a formal succession plan to fill vacant (or soon-to-be vacant) leadership roles. Not sure where to start? Fortunately, industry leaders like Indeed offer succession planning templates.  

Leading to the finish line

Whether you’ve identified a prospective leader, need to create leadership training on an enterprise scale, or need to create a succession plan, we hope this post has helped you uncover the key to developing leaders.

If you continue to learn, practice patience, and instill the soft skills and cultural values you bring in your leadership style in those you mentor, you’ll be well on your way.

Category: Management