How to Properly Promote Employees With Leadership Qualities

Boss shaking hands with promoted employee

Leaders aren’t born — they’re made. If you’re fortunate enough to have team members with leadership potential in your midst, you’ll want to keep them around and help them grow. Retaining the top talent in your organization can be difficult if you don’t provide the proper incentives — your best employees won’t stick around if they don’t feel like they can grow with your company. That said, employee promotion comes with its own set of challenges. Leadership skills don’t necessarily equate to preparedness for a specific role, after all. And you don’t want to overlook your other employees when serving promotions, either.

With all that in mind, here’s some advice for properly promoting employees with leadership qualities in your organization.

How to Promote Good Employees

Hone Employees’ Existing Leadership Skills

Raw talent can open many doors, but even your most talented hires need ongoing training and education to refine their skills. Providing leadership training for employees is a great way to both create new leaders and strengthen existing leaders in your company. With access to the proper resources, employees can transform their abilities into reinforced skillsets that can be applied in a variety of contexts. Ultimately, this scaffolding will help prepare your leaders for different types of promotions.

Provide New Challenges and Opportunities

This tip takes more of a real-world approach. Training is undoubtedly useful for leadership development, but there’s no replacement for actual on-the-job experience. If you want to put your people to the test, give them opportunities to take on new roles and responsibilities, even if only for short periods of time. These trial runs will help those with leadership potential discover their interests, strengths, and weaknesses while also providing you with important information on their candidacy for specific promotions.

Understand an Employee’s Personal Goals and Desires

Communication plays a vital role in proper promotion protocol. For starters, not every employee will want a promotion at a given time, and springing such an opportunity on them when they’re not ready can lead to several issues. Moreover, some emerging leaders will be more inclined to take on certain roles as a way of reaching their personal goals and/or boosting their careers. In every single scenario, the more you know about an employee’s unique goals and desires, the easier it will be to offer the appropriate promotions. So, have regular one-on-one meetings with employees, asking them about what they enjoy doing, how they wish to grow in your organization, what they wish were different, etc.

Determine the Type of Promotion Best Suited for the Situation

Not all promotions are created equal. Dry promotions refer to title upgrades without a pay increase, up-gradations feature increased pay but don’t change anything about an employee’s responsibilities, accretion of duties derive from an increase in workload and come with a relative pay bump — the list goes on. There are also a variety of reasons/methods for promoting an individual, such as merit, seniority, necessity (ad hoc), or some combination of these. The exact type of promotion you dish out must correspond with your company’s needs and goals. You must also keep in mind that some leaders will be more or less receptive to certain types of promotions.

Stay Alert to Potential Openings

Succession planning is all about filling the right roles with the right people, so there’s always a pipeline of strong leadership even when current leaders retire, leave, or can no longer work. The more time you have to plan for such a transition, the better. As such, it’s important to constantly be on the lookout for up-and-coming leaders in your organization that might be able to step into a higher position when the time comes. Once you have some candidates in mind, provide them with the tools, education, and experience necessary for them to take on these new roles in the future.

Make It Known

Lastly, don’t leave your employees in the dark when promotions are available. Even if you have a select group of employees in mind for a given promotion, offering it to anyone interested creates more competition. In this way, creating promotion opportunities serves as a useful employee management tool. It’s also fairer to your current employees to offer the position internally before looking outside the business.

Promoting Better Leadership in Your Workplace

Leaders at every stage need experience, direction, and opportunities to achieve their full potential. Providing these things for your employees will allow you to more easily deliver the right promotions to the right people.


At Leadership Resources, our purpose is to make the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more about what we do and how it can help your business succeed and grow at times like these when you need it most.

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