Growing organizations have many things in common. One of them – they are always in need of more leaders. If not to meet the demands of today, their quest is to ensure they’ll have adequate leadership for their expanding future. Today's Challenge: How do you spot emerging leaders?
Before we jump in, I feel the need to say, identifying emerging leaders is more of an art than a science; at least it is for me. I can think of several times in my life I’ve missed it. I was convinced a person could lead – or lead at the next level, and I was wrong.
If you want to hit home runs, you’ve got to be willing to strike out. Don’t let your past misses keep you from stepping up to the plate. The satisfaction of getting it right far outweighs the momentary pain of a swing and a miss.
So, let’s assume you do want to identify emerging leaders, where do you start? I don’t have a formula or steps to offer, but I do have three questions that may help…
Do people follow this person already? This is a fairly reliable test – Peter Drucker said there are two tests of a leader: Does the person in question have followers and do they get results? In the case of an emerging leader, it is not unusual to see people follow a person’s lead even though they have no formal title or position. The followers are not drawn by obligation, but by leadership! When you encounter this, it’s a strong indication you may be looking at someone with significant leadership potential. They may be a diamond in the rough, but it’s better to start with a diamond than a lump of coal.
Do you see leadership character traits in their life? I believe this is the most accurate means of identifying potential leaders. Leaders are different. And, these differences can be seen, if you look closely. I wrote about leadership character in my book, The Heart of Leadership. Here’s a quick overview:
Leaders, and emerging leaders, possess at least five critical traits; these are the marks of character that make people want to follow our leadership. (I’ve included the opposite behavior for your reference.)
Hunger for Wisdom vs. Knows it All
Expect the Best vs. Expects the Worst
Accept Responsibility vs. Places Blame
Respond with Courage vs. Reluctant to Act
Think Others First vs. Thinks me First
These traits are no guarantee of success; they are no substitute for the skills of leadership. However, if these are missing, emerging leaders will find it virtually impossible to build true fellowship.
What does your gut tell you? Even though this is the most ambiguous of the three questions, it still matters. Over time, leaders can develop a form of radar, which helps us sort out the pretenders from those with potential. As I stated at the beginning, we’ll not always be right. However, we should not dismiss our instinctive response when evaluating an emerging leader. You may have had someone in your past that believed in you for no apparent reason. He or she believed you could lead – and they were right. What did they base their faith upon? It may have just been a hunch. Don’t overlook your gut.
I believe every organization needs some home grown leaders. Like award-winning tomatoes, it always begins with the seed. Do what you can to identify the right people and you'll drastically increase your odds of success. I hope these questions help![GLS_Shield]