We’ve all seen it happen. An employee performs well on the job, regularly exceeding expectations and producing quality work. The managers take notice of this employee, and eventually promotes that employee to a management position.

Then things fall apart. It turns out that the employee is an absolute disaster as a leader. Deadlines are missed, the quality of work falls and other employees are miserable. This employee seemed like surefire management material, only to demonstrate complete leadership incompetence.

How does this happen? Why do some employees make outstanding managers while others completely fall to pieces the moment they’re promoted.

In this post, we’re going to lay out eight ways to help employees turn into good leaders.

This process begins long before any promotions happen, and if you fail to follow these steps, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with another management nightmare.


Some employees want to move toward management while others are quite happy just punching in and punching out. By spelling out a specific management path, you’ll be able to identify which employees want to be leaders. The ability of an employee to achieve the steps on this path will also allow to determine who will make an effective leader.

Consider including some or all of these items on the management path:

  • Training courses and workshops
  • A mentor program
  • A clear promotional ladder and the steps required to climb that ladder

As Andre Lavoie says:

Employees who step up will make it easier to identify which employees are interested in management opportunities as well as which ones are most qualified. That will make it easier to eliminate options that might become bad managers in the future.


A person doesn’t suddenly become a fantastic leader the moment they’re promoted. It’s not like an upgrade in title also creates an upgrade in leadership skills. Rather, managers should be encouraging those under them to regularly engage in small acts of leadership.

As Chad Halvorson says:

By helping your employees to see themselves as leaders no matter what their position or whether or not they even work full-time, you instill an understanding of what leadership entails. Leadership should already be in place when the promotion comes along.

These small acts of leadership can happen in almost any situation, like:

  • Letting them run a meeting
  • Having them attend a meeting as your representative
  • Giving them a larger task and then giving them responsibility for figuring out how it gets done
  • Allowing them to delegate things with you or on your behalf

These leadership tasks don’t need to be large or complicated. They simply need to let the employee understand what is required of a person in leadership.


The best leaders are those who know how to learn. Leaders constantly encounter new problems that require creative problem-solving. They must not only know the answers but also know how to find the answers. There are hundreds of situations for which policies and procedures don’t exist. In these situations, the ability to learn is critical.

Managers who create a constant culture of learning will have more success in finding outstanding leaders. A culture of learning promotes constant inquiry, questions and looking for better solutions. It allows people the freedom to find the best way to achieve something, rather than forcing them to tread a well-worn path.

What are some specific ways leaders can create a culture of learning? Consider:

  • Give every employee self-development resources. This could include money for books, a Kindle pre-loaded with specific titles or even a book club.
  • Offer courses, workshops and trainings for free or a discounted rate.
  • Give employees the freedom to spend a small amount of time working on a passion project or a project unrelated to their job.
  • Create a company library.

The goal is to encourage employees to always be curious and always be learning new things.


Time management skills are essential for managers. Without time management skills, deadlines will be missed, projects will fall into disarray and other employees will find themselves unable to make progress on their jobs.

Leaders should constantly be encouraging employees to embrace various time management techniques.

Whenever possible, leaders should instruct employees to delegate tasks within projects. They should understand that even though they may be able to do everything themselves, delegation will allow them to accomplish more in less. An employee who can’t delegate won’t be an effective leader.

Additionally, managers should help employees prioritize the tasks given to them. A simple way to get started on this is to prioritize their tasks for them in the beginning. Walk them through why certain tasks have priority over others. As time goes on, let them take over the prioritization process.

Finally, consider supplying employees with time management books, such as The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People or Getting Things Done. This will help employees develop specific time management techniques and systems.


Employees perform tasks; leaders own tasks, processes and projects. Raising up effective managers meaning creating a sense of ownership among employees. It’s not enough to simply have them get the job done. They need to feel a responsibility for their work and the final results.

How can leaders do this? Some simple ways are:

  • Instead of micromanaging, allow employees to find the best way to achieve the necessary results.
  • Create a system of milestones for particular tasks and projects and then task the employee with achieving these milestones within a specific time frame.
  • Hold employees responsible for more than just getting the job done. Make both quality and results their responsibility as well.


Employees with no communication skills make terrible leaders. Raising up effective leaders requires instilling key communication skills. Some simple ways to build these communication skills are:

  • Use appropriate company jargon with the team. If there are terms that are regularly used in the company, make sure employees are familiar with and use these terms on a regular basis.
  • Encourage team-wide communication. Employees should not just be checking in with their manager. Rather, they should be keeping their entire team abreast of important items. This ensures that everyone is on the same page.
  • Run meetings effectively. Meetings should be used as team-building times. Encourage everyone to communicate rather than just you talking. Present problems to the group rather than trying to solve everything yourself.


If a manager always comes to the rescue of struggling employees, it will stunt their growth and keep them from learning essential problem-solving skills. Plus, it will make them overly reliant on others to solve their problems, which will cause problems if they are promoted to management. Leaders have to be able to figure things out on their own.

Rather than simply solving problems for employees, consider:

  • Tell them to go back to the drawing board and come back with proposed solutions.
  • Give them additional resources but not specific answers.
  • Creating a series of escalating steps, with managerial help as the final step.
  • Encouraging them to bring others beside the manager into the problem.

Initially, this may slow things down a bit, but in the long run, it will lead to much more effective leaders.


Employees tend to focus only on the tasks assigned to them, while leaders have the big picture in view. One simple way to help employees become better leaders is to show them the big picture.

Show them how their work fits into the overall objectives of your department and the company as a whole. Help them understand how their success or failure contributes to the overall success or failure as a company. Keep employees abreast of where things are headed and what they can expect in the future.

Most employees only think through their individual jobs. By showing them the big picture, it prepares them for management.

Promote by leading

This isn’t a foolproof process. Despite all your efforts, there’s still a chance that you’ll promote the wrong person. It happens.

But by implementing these eight steps, you can significantly lower the chances of managerial disasters. Don’t assume someone will be a great leader. Teach them to be a great leader.

Learning how to lead well is much more than a simple three-step process. PGS offers leadership-centered degree programs such as Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership and Development or a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Leadership and much more that can help you develop these important leadership and management skills.

Learn more about our adult programs

Learn more about our graduate programs