Recent research has proven that we're experiencing a drastic leadership shortage on a global scale. Eight-five percent of companies have reported an urgent need to develop employees with leadership potential.

This is alarming because, as more boomers retire and Millennials move into management roles, today's companies just aren't prepared to meet the demands with leadership in their pipelines.

Conversely, too many senior leaders and HR folk have been conditioned to think of leadership only in terms of power and control. However, in this relationship economy, people are banking on the emotional currency of trust, transparency, and openness to leverage strong teamwork and business outcomes (ask any high-potential Millennial talent what type of leadership behaviors they're drawn to).

In establishing a criteria for identifying and developing potential leaders to groom into high-level roles, it would behoove decision makers to look for these top qualities that lead to both great work relationships and equally great business results.

1. Look for superb listening skills.

Effective communication isn't just about talking; future leaders and high-potentials need to have the uncanny ability of active listening.

Are you a good or bad listener? Let me test you for a second with these two questions. Now, lets be honest...

  • How often do you find yourself trying hard to avoid the bad habit of interrupting others while they are speaking?
  • Do you find yourself tempted to jump in and finish someone else's sentence?

Active listening is being able to park your thoughts and be 100 percent present, free of distraction. You listen intuitively to the other person's story, asking questions, and searching conversations for depth, meaning and understanding with their needs in mind. Your future leaders will respond and engage at a high level by listening to remove obstacles and help others succeed.

2. Look for leaders who develop trust quickly.

In his phenomenal book The Speed Of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey says that a team with high trust will produce results faster and at lower cost.

While conventional thinking says that people have to earn trust first, Covey found that in healthy organizations, leaders are willing to give trust to their followers first, and they give it as a gift even before it's earned.

3. Look for leaders who will develop others.

They will show interest in coaching, mentoring, and making others better. This is what you want to see in future leaders -- a growth mindset of developing talent in the organization. These leaders take the time to provide excellent feedback to others. They will empower others to achieve their goals, bringing out the best in people, and helping them develop.

4. Look for leaders driven to excel.

High potentials aren't just high achievers. They are driven to succeed. They will go the extra mile and know that making sacrifices comes with the territory. When they arrive at the tough fork on the road, they make the hard (and right) choice on sheer ambition, without ever, ever, ever, compromising their values and beliefs.

5. Look for contrarians.

Don't try this if your straight-laced company goes by the bureaucratic book of rules. Contrarians are entrepreneurial-minded people that push against the status quo by doing, thinking, and behaving in unconventional ways, at the speed of innovation. One great example of a whole culture of "contrarians" is found in Big Ass Solutions, the manufacturer of Big Ass Fans. Their "Chief Big Ass," (founder) Carey Smith, expects a contrarian mindset in every person he hires. He says,

"We're continuously looking to break new things, whether they are channels, ideas or conceptions of products. From my perspective, that is the definition of an entrepreneur -- somebody or a group of people continuously trying to tread a new or different path. When you hire bright people who take the initiative and are creative, and you offer them that opportunity, you've opened the door to being entrepreneurial."

6. Look for leaders who are prolific communicators.

A recent Interact/Harris Poll involving 1,000 employees revealed that 91 percent of them believe their leaders lack communication skills. That's alarming.

The powerful and required skill of communication is essential to those who will eventually take over management positions. When good communicators speak, people listen and take action. There's influence there.

Look for a high potential leader who has the ability to be present and authentic when speaking, provide constructive positive and negative feedback, and explain ideas and strategies in a clear and concise manner. They communicate with radical honesty, and they do it with the intent of developing trust with others.

7. Look for evidence of empathy and emotional intelligence.

Does the potential leader help others? Place others before themselves? Give others credit? Do they take time to develop relationships and interact with other employees? Is he or she "for the team"?

If the answer to these questions is an unequivocal yes, then you've got a selfless leader with emotional intelligence. This is exactly who you want in the leadership seat -- someone who understands people and will leverage community and close connections for the benefit of the organization.