Uncovering Leadership Potential with the Women in Your Organization


When companies have effective leaders that show up consistently, they see higher profits, more engagement, and a workforce that is 92% happier with their jobs. However, in an uncertain labor market, finding leaders externally, who effectively build and motivate teams, can be challenging. An alternative way to build a strong and sustainable pipeline of women leadership succession can often be uncovered within your own organization.

Why companies should look internally for leadership

Since people are the key driver of any business, companies know to invest in their workforce. But investments such as gift cards for job recognition or discounts to theme parks are perks that only go so far. Employees today need more in order to achieve job satisfaction.

When employers provide equal opportunities for development of their workforce, they begin to meet employee expectations. For women alone, a McKinsey report found that equal advancement opportunities make 87% feel no longer held back by personal characteristics such as personality, experience or social status and 77% think DEIB should be a high priority at the company. 

Internal promotions are cost-effective too; saving from a thousand dollars to as high as an individual’s salary, as discovered in payscale’s 2022 turnover report.

Internal promotions

  • Improve retention rates
  • Drive motivation
  • Increase morale
  • Build diversity and inclusion
  • Improve employer branding 

Companies can also gain peace of mind, knowing that the employee they are investing in is engaged and already a good fit with the organization. The current employee will have greater adaptability and reach their full potential faster than a new hire who would still need to learn the company culture and industry. In turn, developing a loyal employee culture.

The challenges for uncovering leadership potential 

The great resignation has taught companies a lot, and has proven that employees have options, and do not need to tolerate poor management. According to Statista, uncaring/uninspiring leaders are the third most motivating factor for people leaving a job, following inadequate compensation and lack of career development. That is why it is essential to choose leaders wisely. Bad bosses are attributed to creating a toxic work environment and negative company culture.

So, it is important to be aware of the challenges that can disrupt even the best efforts to find and develop leaders. Here are three main challenges:

Not recognizing what makes a good leader 

Companies need to understand that leadership is more than dictating orders and making sure everyone does their job. Leaders need to have the right interpersonal skills as well as hard skills to effectively lead. According to Forbes, team building, thinking strategically, and inspiring trust are just a few skills that effective leaders need today.

Also, times have changed, and the bias that people will only follow older male leaders is a thing of the past; with most Americans no longer having gender preferences for a leader. Moreover, it is now accepted that there is no single definition of leadership as authentic leadership is understood better

Not diversifying

It has been found that companies that support a more diverse leadership are more productive. Gender diversity alone at the executive level generates 21% higher profits and delivers more value.

But still, men hold a higher percentage of leadership roles in organizations and have a larger influence on who is given access to leadership development. There needs to be a change in practice and more resources available to underrepresented groups.

Waiting too long to start

It can be easy to want to wait and see if employees will stay with the organization long enough to be worth the investment. But it has been found that the sooner employees are considered for advancement, the more likely they will remain with a company, especially with young women who can be overlooked. 


Best practices for uncovering potential women leaders

It is important to begin communicating the company’s desire to build diverse leaders within the organization. Show excitement about the idea. Let them know of the benefits it would provide the company and themselves with their career growth.

Then, identify the best candidates for a succession plan. Using data over recommendations alone is the best method to avoid common bias. With gender equality becoming more of a focus, some organizations fall into the trap of discrimination, and in many cases place twice as many men into succession programs than women. Using employee aptitude measurements such as assessments and learning agility tests can make decisions more objective.

Once candidates are identified, it is vital to provide effective training to prepare individuals to advance their careers or be considered for a promotion when that opportunity becomes available. Another option for employers to explore is to use stretch assignments that encourage the employee to gain new knowledge outside their expertise to further develop their skill sets and build confidence. Integrating these methods into a broader talent management strategy will help to engage, retain and develop the next generation of leadership in your organization. 

The key is to find the best method for your employees to develop leadership skills as well as identify as a good fit for the organization’s strategies and expectations. Through  such interventions you can provide a long-term solution that expands beyond training by enabling individuals the opportunities at work to practice their newly gained skills. 

Training is not one-size-fits-all. When looking to diversify, women tend to prefer flexibility in their learning. They are more successful with training approaches that deliver personalized instruction specific to each woman and unique stage in their career. This can involve focusing on a variety of interpersonal skills or discovering their own authentic leadership styles. Choosing an appropriate method will assist in growing and maintaining intellectual curiosity among top performers.


What more can be done to build potential?

Training alone is not enough to build leadership potential within the organization. One beneficial measure to take is to create mentorship for those looking to grow leadership skills. Having a senior-level professional that the learner can turn to for wisdom and real world experience can create a safe environment where questions can be asked and answered as situations arise. It is so effective that the gap in gender leadership found in many instances completely disappears when women receive formal coaching.

Another option to assist with women leadership training is to provide valuable support systems. For women looking to become a leader, it can be isolating. At reacHIRE, it has been found that women are 2.5 times more likely to become high performers if they are surrounded by a supportive, family-oriented circle of women including peers, coaches and sponsors.

This can be done by providing women with the means and opportunity to network and engage with their peers who share their same experiences. Giving them the time to exchange ideas and thoughts, especially for those working remotely, helps women build a sense of community and belonging.

How to provide the best resources

There are several ways to provide opportunities for interested parties. An optimal solution will deliver a 360° experience which uses both a defined curriculum and support from mentors and coaches to help build skills, as well as, learn practical and relevant knowledge; providing immediate and measurable impact to your business.

Leadership development programs that use high touch, holistic methods are often the most successful way to keep employees engaged and accountable for their own personal growth. As secondary support, programs that leverage digital platforms enable employees to access on-the-go content that is more manageable amidst busy schedules. Virtual platforms also make it easier for women to connect with a like-minded community of professionals to build their confidence and skills base. 

Leading companies such as iRobot Corporation are seeing 31% of their participants earn promotions in the past year with the assistance of reacHIRE’s Aurora program. To learn more about how you too can uncover the full leadership potential of your staff, contact one of our specialists today.