How to Nurture Future Leaders

Businesses across the UK are experiencing challenges in retaining talent due to shifting priorities and evolving desires surrounding job roles. How individuals live and work has altered for good in the last few years, which has led to job dissatisfaction and ‘work-life balance’ coming to the forefront. The great resignation has been compounded further by the challenges arising within an ageing population and outgoing leaders.

This effectively leads to a talent shortage because many companies are still falling short in how they attract and nurture talent.


These two reasons for leaving employment both demonstrate that people need to feel valued at work. Added to this is the fact that research shows lots of new leaders don’t receive any training. What this means is that capable individuals who have been above proficient in previous roles are suddenly promoted, but are not furnished with the support or opportunities to develop the necessary skills required to be effective in their new position. In short, they progress but without the essential skills to lead adroitly. Clearly, more thought is needed on such development paths because without leadership training in place, businesses are not able to nurture or retain their leaders to maximum effect.

Developing a Leadership Mindset in Future Leaders

When an employee is recognised as a high performer and is subsequently propelled into a leadership role, this doesn’t instantly mean that the individual has made the shift from individual contributor to facilitating others.

It is a big shift to go from ‘doing’ to ‘leading’ on projects and changing the mindset from individual to leader is what is necessary to lead others – so that they can accomplish tasks. The first-time manager is acutely aware of the new responsibilities and there is instant pressure to achieve results through their leadership. There can be no question that this will require an upgraded skill set.

New leader personality types

In a discussion on how we nurture future leaders, before creating development and training, we must acknowledge who they are when they are fresh in the role. Below is an example of the personality types of new leaders:

  1. Everyone’s buddy – keen to remain popular and a friend to everyone
  2. Can’t delegate – they find it hard to let go and their team may not measure up in their eyes
  3. Big boss – has not made the distinction between manager and leader, can be overbearing
  4. Process fanatic – focussed on structure and checklists at the expense of engagement and personality

We are who we are, and therefore a new leader steps into a role carrying a clear idea in their head of how it should be approached; this is often informed by their previous experience, role models  and personality. The reality is that in order to develop successful leaders, an individual needs an element of all these personality traits – but in relative harmony. To evolve and balance out these personality aspects can only come through coaching and training; great leaders are not born, they are created.

Great leaders aren’t born, they’re created

The training an individual is given to facilitate becoming a great leader is essential. Just because someone has performed well as an employee, it does not mean they become an effective manager overnight.

In fact, more than a quarter of managers don’t receive any formal training in leadership or in how to manage people. Yet those organisations that nurture and develop their managers see organisational performance improve by 23%. When considering how to nurture future leaders, we must understand that great leaders are created and built through learning, experience, and judgement. It is evident therefore that new leaders be given the opportunity to learn. It’s critical, not just for new leaders but throughout the organisation, that a leadership development path runs right through a business if they want to both attract and retain the best talent available. Individuals want to know that a company cares about them as people. The greatest way to demonstrate a clear path of progression is to invest in training and development.

It is also critical that the workplace environment has a culture that encourages psychological safety and space for difficult conversations. This desire to nurture and grow only comes when we can verbalise how we feel, and this applies both to new leaders and their employees. There is no question that growth comes through working our way through obstacles, barriers, or challenges in the workplace. Unless we can have difficult conversations, we will not be able to nurture our future leaders.

Mentoring is Key

It is essential to understand how different generations perceive being nurtured. For example, 79% of millennials see mentoring as a critical part of career success. When it comes to attracting new talent, if the business can show that there is a mentoring program in place, it demonstrates a clear desire to progress and develop individuals. The relationship between the mentor and mentee is a powerful part of employee engagement. It is a tangible way that a business shows its employees are seen as the future of the business.


Nurturing talent in technology

Ensuring that businesses attract a younger age demographic is particularly pertinent in industries that are at the forefront of technological advancement. An example of an organisation that has understood the need to nurture and develop talent is Brother UK. They have been working with Dale Carnegie since 2014 as part of their vision to “develop a continued culture of learning that would engage their people and create a vibrant thriving company culture”. They understood that retaining talent meant building a culture of learning right from the front-line up to management. Their powerful vision for their people resulted in them achieving Investors in People Platinum Award in 2019. They boast an average of 13 years for employees remaining with them, a testament to the fact that their staff feel nurtured and valued.

The impact of the great resignation and the struggle to retain talent is directly related to how we nurture future leaders. It has also generated a crop of new or first-time leaders. Gen Y have a clear expectation of being nurtured, and with an aging population, the likelihood is that our future leaders are coming from this group. Regardless of this, people need to see that a company has a clear, inclusive strategy for developing and training their leaders of tomorrow.