Leadership – there are few more critical considerations for successful businesses today. While your team members are responsible for most of the work that gets done within the organization, your leaders are responsible for steering the ship toward success. Leaders motivate, affect morale, and drive engagement.
Of course, the challenge here is finding the right people for the right positions. How do you tell if you have the right leaders in place for success and growth? In this post, we will explore some of the most important signs to look for that indicate strong leadership.
Why Leadership Matters
Management succession is one of the most essential tasks for the C-suite. However, the process of identifying potential leaders is challenging and fraught with pitfalls. It’s anything but straightforward.
Leadership is more than the ability to organize or to inspire loyalty. It’s a complex capability with many different facets. It’s nuanced and filled with subtleties. It is also a critical thing to get right with a minimum of mistakes. A misstep in naming leaders in your business can result in lost profits, missed growth opportunities, lost talent, and even damage to your brand’s reputation.
One of the most important mistakes to avoid in the process of identifying leaders in your organization is the “halo effect”. That is, CEOs and others may value a particular set of traits in an individual, but overlook negative aspects of that person’s personality. Their good qualities look so compelling that you find it hard to identify the cons in the situation.
For instance, one potential leader might show outstanding operational proficiency. They may also have years of experience under their belt. However, that person might be so risk-averse that any opportunity for growth will be missed simply out of an overabundance of caution.
So, how do you avoid those sorts of problems while still being able to fill leadership positions and handle management succession? It comes down to knowing what to look for in a good leader.
Confidence and Joy, Not Fear
How does the individual lead and motivate their team members? Is it through fear or “cracking the whip”? While those might have been acceptable, even lauded in the past, today we understand that they ultimately drive down results and create a negative work environment, while destroying positive culture.
Instead, look for leadership candidates who lead by instilling confidence and joy. That can be tough to identify, so look for teams that:
- Show up on Monday ready and willing to work.
- Show enthusiasm even during tough tasks.
- Interact and collaborate easily and often.
- Feel that they are appreciated by their manager.
Chances are good that teams that display these qualities are led by someone who has what it takes to be a great leader.
They Encourage Learning and Growth
A good leader understands that their success hinges on their team’s success. Of course, job performance is a big metric there, but hardly the only one of consequence. Team members are rarely content to simply come to work, do their job, then go home day after day, month after month, and year after year.
They want (and deserve) opportunities to grow and develop. Those come through learning, and a good leader will encourage their team members to develop through learning activities. A good leadership candidate will work with their team members to map out a career path and then pursue learning opportunities that help them progress along that path.
However, it goes deeper than simply asking, “What do you want to do five years from now?”. It requires a deep understanding of an employee’s inner needs, as well as the ability to work with others to identify things like strengths and weaknesses, gifts, and personality types to help improve job fit and encourage team members to be the best they can be.
It’s All About Trust
One of the most defining aspects of a good leader is that they inspire trust in their team members. However, trust does not simply develop from empty words. It requires action. What sorts of activities might a good candidate for a higher leadership position take that would build trust and drive improved outcomes for the team and the organization as a whole? Some of the most important include:
- They practice and encourage accountability in others.
- They create transparency in all that they do.
- They confront reality rather than denying it.
- They clarify expectations to employees and ensure everyone’s on the same page.
- They listen first and ensure that when they speak it comes from a place of understanding and empathy.
Great Leaders Communicate Often and Well
Without the ability to communicate, you cannot lead. Therefore, it follows that good leadership candidates will practice excellent communication habits in their day-to-day routine. What forms should communication take? How much is too much?
There are no hard and fast answers here. Communication can take any form necessary to meet the needs of the situation and those involved. For instance, in a remote work situation, communication can and should include video conferencing and email, but also text and chat apps, platforms like Slack and/or Trello, and more.
In terms of communication frequency – the more often, the better, particularly if you’re still working remotely. Daily stand-ups should be the rule, as should weekly check-ins and regular one-on-ones with team members.
However, any leadership candidate must go the distance with communication for the right reason. It should be because they understand how critical it is to team success, but also because they’re dedicated to supporting every member of the team, and not because “it’s expected” of them.
Identify Your Prospects
With a better understanding of these key qualities, it should be simpler to begin identifying your leadership prospects. Once identified, communicate with them. Nurture their ability to lead and help them grow and develop. Provide the support they need to become the best leaders possible and the organization will thrive.