One of the consistent struggles we hear from the business community is how to identify and train current and future leaders. It’s such an important topic that I’m splitting it into two posts, the first is how you can identify leaders, and the second is how to train and keep the leaders you identify (stayed tuned for next week’s post).
I’ve found the best leaders are easy to spot over time when you know what to look for. I trust my gut when it comes to finding future leaders, but let me try to clearly explain how my gut identifies those rising stars:
Leaders are at the center of the workpod
Do you see people stopping by one co-worker’s desk often throughout the day? Maybe to run a project idea by them or even just to chat informally? People naturally turn to others who they think have great ideas, can help them work through a problem, or are a valuable sounding board. Don’t think of those employees as wasting time; they’re pointing you towards a future leader.
Leaders are easy to spot in meetings
They come prepared and ask good, even challenging questions. You’ll often see them win over co-workers to their point of view, sometimes handily convincing executives about a new direction. They listen to all meeting participants, often set others at ease, and may even relieve pressured situations.
Encourage your problem solvers
If you have a thinker on your team who always comes up with great solutions to problems, you have a potential leader. Beyond just the inventive solutions, do they share them? Do they see the possible ramifications of changes in strategy, or why a tactical move is necessary? Do they identify pitfalls you didn’t see?
Bring a possible leader into a brainstorm
How do they act in a brainstorm session? Do they contribute ideas while listening respectfully to others’ ideas? Can you see them producing great ideas and championing better ideas? Or do they run roughshod over the session—that’s not a leader, that’s a bully—or are overly concerned with territory?
Put a potential leader under pressure
Give them something big: ask them for brainpower. One of the best ways to find a leader is to assign an employee a task. How do they respond? How do they go about finishing the task? Do they bring you a different way of approaching the task? Do they think about how their assignment integrates with others on the team or voluntarily combine brainpower? How do they accept feedback?
Your potential leader will demonstrate over a few months how they can rise to the challenges you’ve provided. In general, leaders are persuaders. The best leaders are persuaders who make teams better, inspiring co-workers to do great work together. Hopefully you know that by identifying and encouraging your future leaders, you’re securing the future of the company.
Next time I’d like to demonstrate to you how to keep the leader you’ve identified and start to mentor and train them. See you next Thursday!