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Today's Challenge: Growing Your Own Leaders

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. tweet_bird 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]

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Ruben Avalos Jr

7 years ago

Thanks for another Great tool and article for our development in Leadership. I had to comment and let you know that “gut” feeling is why I was hired with my company. The Leader who hired me 7 years ago told me I have a lot of resumes here but I get a good gut feeling about you.
I was hired as a floor supervisor, today I am a Regional Senior Manager of Process Excellence and he is a Mentor of mine. To this day I forward your emails and encourage young leaders to follow you as I train them in PEX. They ask how I got to my level and I tell them Mark Miller is one of the ingredients in my success recipe. I love Great Leaders Grow and tell them to start there and move on to The Heart of Leadership.
Leadership preparation is important, but practicing it is what polishes the diamond!
Thanks again,
Ruben Avalos Jr


7 years ago

Thanks for your kind words! I’m thankful the content I’m sharing is helpful. Please continue to pass it on! Congratulations on your growing impact on your leadership journey! Please let me know how I can serve you and your team in the future. Mark

Tom Henricksen

7 years ago

Every organization seems to approach this challenge differently. I remember early in my career working in an organization that only hired leaders from outside the company. This sent a signal to many of the talented team members and they left. I like your three questions to determine if someone is a leader.


7 years ago

Yes, Tom, every company seems to have their own bias in this arena. Our company has been the opposite of what you described. Our leaders are almost all homegrown. The good news, we’re getting smarter. I am convinced the right answer is a blend – inside and outside leaders. Thanks again for joining the conversation! Mark


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