Recognizing and developing future leaders

Jan 31, 2021

Be deliberate in identifying those who have the potential to grow into leadership roles, and help them develop the skill sets they need to be successful as future managers.

Our firm will be celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2021. Over the years, we’ve had discussions with colleagues who ask the secret to our longevity – how we’ve managed to continue on through multiple generations of leaders. There are multiple factors, of course, but one of the crucial components has been the ability to recognize and develop staff members who will be our future firm leaders.

We believe the success of any firm rides on the ability of the people at the top to effectively lead and manage. That’s why we are very deliberate in identifying those who have the potential to grow into leadership roles, and helping them develop the skill sets to be successful as future managers.

Here are a few of the traits we look for:

  • Energy. Our future leaders are self-motivated to do better as individuals and for our firm to do better as a company. They take action toward those goals.
  • Technical excellence. These individuals are proficient and up-to-date in their discipline. They consistently and efficiently produce high quality work.
  • People skills. The ability to work well with others is highly important as a leader and manager. We take note of those who communicate clearly and effectively, who are team players, who can build relationships, and are generally strong in the so-called “soft” skills.
  • Share our values. They uphold our company culture. This will differ from firm to firm, but for us, we value providing excellent customer service, doing things right, striving for improvement, and work/life balance.

In our firm, once we have identified future leaders, we help them grow. We assign them to challenging projects, helping them grow technically and interpersonally, as sometimes the challenge is collaborating effectively with others. We also solicit, encourage, and support their plans for professional development and ideas to improve our firm.

We also enroll these individuals in a leadership coaching program that aims to provide information and tools that give participants the ability to be successful and grow both personally and professionally.

This careful and deliberate approach to cultivating future firm leaders has served us well over the years and has seen us through multiple successful leadership transitions. It is a continual process, and it is exciting and rewarding to watch these team members advance in their careers and propel our firm’s success.

Frank Johnson, PE, chief operation officer and vice president with R.E. Warner & Associates, Inc. Contact him at

Click here to read this week's issue of The Zweig Letter!

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.