Tips for Spotting and Cultivating Future Leaders in Your Public Sector Organization

As older generations of workers in leadership positions are retiring from public sector and government agencies, it’s become increasingly important to find new leaders to fill in those roles.

The thing is, leadership can make or break your organization on all levels, from productivity to meeting organizational challenges. That's why it is essential to know how to identify leaders in your organization and nurture those employees as executives who can further the organization's goals.

The following tips can help you with spotting leadership potential and developing leadership skills in your agency.

Why It’s Important for Organizations to Develop Leaders From Within

Leadership is a vital aspect of good public governance, as supervisors must understand how to solve the unique challenges that public sector organizations face. Promoting someone to a leadership position within the agency can be more effective than scouting for an external hire to fill that leadership role for a number of reasons:

  • It shortens the hiring process significantly
  • It raises the morale of employees
  • The employee already knows the ins and outs of the organization
  • It is less risky to promote someone with a proven performance history

Promoting and cultivating an employee who has already proven their commitment and worth to the organization is also much less costly than hiring an unknown from the outside. While external hires can bring fresh perspectives and new approaches and ideas to your public sector organization, they lack overall company knowledge and understanding of the organization's operations—especially if you hire someone who has only worked in the private sector, as the structure and chain of command are often very different between these two sectors.

How to Spot Potential Future Leaders

So, how do you identify the employees with the highest potential?

Employees with the most potential for future leadership often exhibit personality traits like:

  • Flexibility
  • The ability to thrive in fast-past work environments
  • Autonomy
  • Interest in the organization
  • Aspirations to be a leader
  • Responsibility
  • Active listening

Often, they are strong problem-solvers who act on those solutions and can lead or supervise groups of employees. They are also able to meet organizational and personal objectives and goals. So, these employees with the highest potential often surpass performance metrics regularly. In fact, studies have shown that those high-potential employees have been shown to exert 21% more effort than others and have a 75% chance of succeeding in the roles they’re placed in.

How to Cultivate Future Leaders

Developing leadership skills may seem like a no-brainer, but it is more complicated than that. Nurturing promising talent as they grow as organizational leaders who manage and inspire others is more of an art than a science. That said, here are some ways to cultivate future leaders in your agency:


Upskilling or teaching employees new and interesting skills is a great way to gauge an employee's interest in leadership and their abilities. It also helps nurture those vital skills all leaders must have and empowers them keep up with changing policies and laws. This, in turn, can increase organizational performance.

Personal Development Programs

Some organizations use personal development programs to identify potential leaders early on by teaching them new skills and helping them advance to other positions. Programs like this can be broad or specific, like computer software training, productivity and time management, or training specific to certain positions. These programs can also help assess weaknesses and strengths in employees and foster employee collaboration and commitment.

Business Mentorship

Providing employees with a mentor is a great way to cultivate leaders in your organization. It can help you achieve better results with training and reduce the time required to produce new leaders in your agency. Current supervisors can take on these roles and provide invaluable insights.

Key Takeaways

Leadership development in the public sector is a vital part of any organization’s growth and success. By upskilling employees, providing opportunities for personal development and placing those with the most potential with mentors, you can create a system for cultivating new leaders.

Design and implement a process for finding potential future supervisors and managers and look out for the character traits and actions that signify a potential leader. If your organization needs help upskilling employees, CPS HR has the resources to help you achieve those leadership development goals.

Are you looking for a cost-effective way to hire new leaders for your agency? Learn how to identify leaders in your organization and cultivate them.
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About CPS HR Consulting

CPS HR Consulting is a self-supporting public agency providing a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients across the country.  Our strategic approach to increasing the effectiveness of human resources results in improved organizational performance for our clients.  We have a deep expertise and unmatched perspective in guiding our clients in the areas of organizational strategy, recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, and training and development.