Leadership development: Picking Winners

January 2, 2019 by Wally Bock

Leadership development begins with selecting people for leadership roles. In some ways, it’s like cooking. You’re more likely to get a great result if you start with great ingredients.

Marcel Schwantes reminded me of that truth when I read his article in Inc. Magazine: “The quickest way to great leadership won’t happen without improving these three people skills.” Here’s the line that caught my eye.

“We are promoting individual contributors into leadership roles who don’t have the capacity to lead.”

I don’t think “capacity” is the right word. Almost everyone can lead. That doesn’t mean that everyone will be a good choice. Use testing as part of your process to identify people likely to succeed as leaders. Testing will give you clues about who to observe. Then you can spot people who will become good leaders based on their behavior.

Leadership Development: Looking for Social Skills

Schwantes nails this one. The most important skills for a leader to master are the social skills. Technical skills are important, but they’re way down the list.

The easiest way to spot people with good social skills is to observe them in their everyday work. People who will make good leaders show persuasiveness and decisiveness no matter what role they’re in. They’re likely to have followers. Find people who have followers even if they don’t have a leadership position, and you’re likely to find people who will succeed as leaders.

Don’t stop there. Put people you think have the right stuff in situations where they can demonstrate it. Temporary leadership roles and developmental assignments are great for this. They will also help a potential leader decide if leadership is for him or her.

Leadership Development: Assessing Willingness to Lead

Leadership is not an exalted state, it’s a kind of work. As with any kind of work, some people will take to it better than others.

People who enjoy the work of leadership are likely to do it better than people who don’t. The reverse is also true. People who don’t like the work of leadership are likely to be awful leaders.

Spot people who will enjoy leadership work by looking for three behaviors. Effective leaders will confront others about poor performance or bad behavior. Effective leaders will make decisions. Often the official leader of a group is the tiebreaker. Effective leaders love helping other people succeed. If you spot a person in your organization who’s not a leader but who shows those three behaviors, he or she is likely to be a winner.

Bottom Line

You’ll develop better leaders if you start with men and women who demonstrate effective leadership behavior even though they don’t have a leadership position.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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