Leaders Must See the Unseen...

One of the things that leaders are required to do is see the unseen. This expectation comes in many forms.

We’re expected to see a preferred future for the team/group/organization we lead.

We are expected to see the changing landscape in our industry – before it changes.

We are asked to see the outcome of potential strategies years before the final verdict can be rendered.

We’re expected to see the potential in people before that potential has been translated into performance.

This post is about this last item – how do we identify untapped potential in others? I’ll quickly say, I believe this is much more of an art than it is a science. And, like many of you, my best projection about somebody’s potential has not always come to fruition. However, regardless of the challenges, identifying potential in people is still part of our role. So, how do we do it well?  Sometimes, you’ll just have a hunch – call it intuition. That’s not a bad thing, but I still believe there are signs we can look for that will give us clues to inform our intuition.
Excellence – Does the person execute their current responsibilities with excellence? The best predictor of future performance is past performance. Don’t expect a mediocre performer to get better if you give them more responsibility.
Capacity – Does the person have ample capacity to do their current role well? Do they have excess capacity? This may be a sign that they are ready for a bigger challenge.
Passion – Does the person demonstrate passion for their work? The organization? The people they currently lead? If you’re considering them for a leadership position, passion is even more critical.
Desire – Does the person have the desire to do more? Be more? Contribute more? To most leaders, this question seems odd. You may be thinking, “Doesn’t everyone want to do and be more?” No - this is not a universal trait. Some people are quite content to do what they are currently doing – they don’t want more.
Energy – If you're considering giving a person a bigger challenge and more responsibility, you've got to have confidence that they have the personal energy and stamina to pull it off. At Chick-fil-A, we challenge our leaders to be "Fit to Lead."
Seeing potential in someone and calling it out is one of the best parts of being a leader.[GLS_Shield]
What do you look for when you're trying to see the untapped potential in someone?

Leave a comment

19 + sixteen =

Dale Biegler

11 years ago

These statements are such good guidelines for many more than just the business leader. What about teachers, who are autonomous most of the time, and are trying to develop potential in the young people ie students, who will lead this country in the future.


11 years ago

Absolutely! I think great teachers have the ability to see the unseen in EVERY student. If they don't, I'm guessing they are not very good teachers. Thanks for your comment.

Craig Walker

10 years ago

Incredible post and great focus areas for leaders to be looking to not only develop other leaders within their organization but also to potentially replace themselves. Once you identify the potential in someone, how do you go about drawing that potential out without burning them out?


10 years ago

Thanks, Craig. Avoiding burnout is a big question. I'll write more about that in the next few weeks. Thanks for your comment. Mark

My great Wordpress blog | Just another WordPress site | A Leader’s Christmas List

8 years ago

[…] all know, perhaps the most important thing we’re supposed to be able to do as leaders is to see the unseen. Sometimes we get it right; sometimes we get it wrong. I’d like to see with greater clarity […]

Great Leaders Serve | By Mark Miller | The Future of Work

7 years ago

[…] are responsible for seeing the unseen – it’s at the core of our job description – vision. I believe this is the most […]

Great Leaders Serve | By Mark Miller | Don’t Fall Behind

7 years ago

[…] of attention. Learn to see everything. As you mature as a leader, you should even become skilled at seeing the unseen. That’s a big part of what leaders do. All of this is predicated on our ability to really see […]


Copyright © 2022 INTEGREAT Leadership
All rights reserved.