How to Identify a Leader
Leadership is a combination of inherited and acquired
characteristics. Even if your genes didn’t make you a ‘natural’ leader
you can certainly learn a lot about leadership if you’re called upon to
Natural leaders stand out – they’re easy to identify. Identifying those
that have the potential to become leaders is a much harder process but
it’s what every business owner has to do when looking for team members
to promote into supervisory or management positions.
The business world is rapidly changing to a new concept of leadership.
Instead of looking for some sort of tribal leader at the top of a
corporation who can drive the masses beneath, directors are coming to
see the value of a ‘leadership team’ approach where a group of leaders
drives the company. This creates a greater need for development of
leadership skills, but how can
you spot the best candidates for the leadership team?
Look at past performance first.
Who has been able to define a vision and motivate others to go with it?
Who has shown the willingness to take on a challenge and enjoyed
accomplishing something noteworthy? This is what leaders do.
Motivating others begins with energy and commitment. Leaders infuse
those they lead with their own energy. They obtain a commitment from
others to achieve the goals they’ve set. They provide the force that
drives the engine and harness the power of their followers.
Leaders are often impatient, but constructively so. They aren’t the kind
of people who complain but do nothing to change the situation. If they
perceive a fault they also look for a way to fix the problem – not some
fanciful solution but a practical approach.
Decision-making is part of leadership. Leaders don’t spend a lot of time
pondering issues; they make a decision and get on with it. Their role is
moving forward, and standing still while conducting internal debates is
not something they tolerate in themselves.
Another characteristic of leadership is a willingness to take
responsibility. Leaders do this instinctively because it’s the way they
can have the satisfaction of achieving goals. They want to take the
responsibility for a task and see it through to a satisfactory
The military is a good proving ground for leaders. It’s where another
leadership factor is especially important – mental toughness. “The
loneliness of command” is very real and it takes a special kind of
person to combine mental toughness with genuine leadership abilities.
Just as good officers are respected by their troops, leaders enjoy the
respect of their peers. It’s as instinctive to follow a leader as it is
for some to lead. A good leader is respected for those qualities of
leadership that are recognized by those he or she leads.
Leaders are good listeners.
They ask questions and are sincerely interested in the answers they
receive. By being good listeners they get to understand those whom they
lead – their issues and concerns as well as knowing their feelings and
encouraging their contributions.
And finally comes a quality that is often called ‘character’. True
leaders are looked up to as role models. They exemplify what others
would like to be but usually aren’t, at least not to the same degree.
This is not to imply that leaders are arch-conservatives; far from it.
They’re usually seen as bold and daring, but with integrity and
responsibility as character traits.
Leaders are trustworthy - people respond best to those they trust.
Trustworthiness is an absolute requirement of any leader. A person in a
position of leadership who doesn’t tell the truth will soon lose the
support of followers.
One ability all leaders seem to have is the ability to see leadership
potential in others and develop it. Leaders have a drive to make the
most of everything and everybody – a desire to help others become
leaders if the potential is there. They make excellent mentors and are
happy to share their knowledge with others.
We’ve already said that leadership skills can be learned. So, you’ve
worked hard at becoming a leader and you believe that you’re ready to
take on leadership challenges. How do you convince others that you’re
now ready to lead?
Well, even natural leaders can be overlooked for a while, and that
certainly applies to those who are working to acquire leadership skills.
But the answer’s very simple. If
you’re really ready to be a leader, the others will know.