Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Spotting your future leaders is often counterintuitive

Every organization needs good leaders and a leadership bench. Often, however, the very people we need to help us lead in the future are under our nose but we miss them because they are "leaders in the raw" whose behaviors don't look like leadership material today. In fact their behaviors today may cause one to assume that they are not potential leaders. It is counter intuitive but here are some of the traits of your future leaders that should cause you to pay attention.

They have strong opinions
All leaders do. In the case of leaders in the raw however, those opinions have not yet been tempered by diplomacy so those opinions may come off as sounding arrogant or obnoxious. Now some people are arrogant and obnoxious but often what sounds like such is actually a future leader who is yet unpolished.

They have lots of ideas
People with lots of ideas are obviously thinkers. Granted there are people with lots of ideas and no ability to carry them out but it may be that they are on to something and we should pay attention.

They question the status quo
That is what leaders naturally do. This can be threatening to us because they are questioning how we currently do what we do. There is no need to be threatened - and there is reason to pay attention even if some of their analysis may sound naive. Those who question the status quo are often leaders in the making.

They are not afraid to get in your face
Truth is, you may have to get in theirs to talk about attitude or how they express themselves. But the very fact they are willing to go head to head with you is an indication that there may be a leadership gene that does not yet know how to finesse the message.

They are passionate about what they think
Passion is a trait of a leader. They believe deeply and that belief can easily come out in less than helpful ways when they are young. I am not talking about those who are inflexible in their beliefs but those who have a passion around their opinions and actions.

They want to change the world
Those of us who have been around a while know that none of us can change the world. But we can change something in the world for the better. Those who want to change the world when they are young may not know that life is not that simple but we should pay attention to the underlying desire that is expressed.

They attract others to follow them
This is the definition of a leader (whether a good one or not - others are following). Leaders must lead and there is something about them that causes others to follow. 

They have strong personalities
Yep, that is what leaders have. The strength of their personalities when young can be irritating and cause them friction with others but it is a sign that there are deeply held beliefs and passions that lie beneath the surface. Leaders are not shrinking violets after all.

The behaviors of a potential leader or leader in the raw may seem irritating, caustic, arrogant, or cynical to more mature leaders. And, indeed, that is often the case in terms of how they come across. Because they have strong personalities it is often necessary to "get in their face" and talk about how they come across, how they are perceived when they speak passionately and about behaviors that are counter productive. 

None of that, however, should keep you from paying attention, developing them, giving them opportunity to lead something at an appropriate level and to mentor the underlying leadership piece toward greater health and maturity. The very behaviors you may not like today are the ones that you need in a more mature form tomorrow. If you are a leader think of your younger days and you get the drift.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

TJ, I certainly agree with all you say here. Challenging the status quo, particularly when taking on a large entrenced institution, is a particular favorite of mine. :) Lori - Atlanta