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6 Ways to Nudge a Potential Leader

I ask small group leaders often, “Who is your apprentice? Your Co-leader? What potential leaders do you have in your group?”

The reply I get more than any other is this:

Nobody in my group is anywhere near ready to lead other people.

I guarantee you, though, if I were to sit in their group meeting, I could pick out a handful of potential leaders.

I’ve found that the word “potential” is a tough word to grasp. We often jump right over it. Instead of “potential,” we hear “proven.” Or “ready.” Or “perfect.”

“Potential” is different. Think back to your days in science class, where you learned about the difference between potential energy and kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is the energy of motion. It’s the energy of work. The more work you do, the more kinetic energy you produce. The faster you move, the more kinetic energy you build up.

Potential energy is energy that’s stored up, waiting for an outside mover. Waiting for a nudge, a kick, or a “suggestion.” It’s hard to “see” potential energy. A roller coaster, at the top of a hill, has potential energy. A ball, just before it’s dropped, has lots of potential energy. A spring, when fully outstretched, has lots of potential energy.

When I’m sitting with a leader, asking what other “potential” leaders are present in their group, they are looking for “kinetic energy” leaders. They’re looking for someone who’s already leading. They want to suggest someone whose kinetic energy is building, not someone who has potential energy stored up.

Someone who has potential energy may look uncommitted and unmotivated. They may appear lazy. It may seem that they’re far from being ready to lead.

Seeing Potential

Seeing potential is tough, because you can’t look at who, or what, is in front of you. You’re looking at what’s in front of someone else. Often, what’s in front of them is something that they haven’t seen themselves. Potential energy isn’t moving mountains and creating waves. Potential energy may be sitting calmly, not realizing the kinetic energy right in front of them.

Which is exactly why they need a nudge. From you.

Here are 6 easy ways to nudge to a potential leader

1. Tell them that you believe in them. And mean it. Encouragement goes a long way in nudging a potential leader.

2. Tell them the potential you see in them. Help paint a picture for them of what could be if they were to lead.

3. Give them a chance to lead, and set things up for an easy win.

4. Ask for feedback on your own leadership. Ask them how they think you could improve.

5. Read a book on leadership…together. Meet as you’re reading through it, and discuss observations you find.

6. Give them authority over an area of your organization or over a special project. Trust them to make decisions and lead well, and follow up to ensure they feel supported and are growing.


Do you find it difficult to spot potential leaders? How do you give them a nudge?