Last week I wrote in The Limits of a One-Man Show that a leader who doesn’t share his or her vision, influence, and momentum with others will see all three diminish over time. I learned that lesson at Hillham, and it’s one I’ve never forgotten. It is absolutely essential for any leader to find capable women and men to mentor and invest in for the future!
But that raised an important question in several comments on the post: how do you know whom to invest in as a leader? So I decided to set aside my original topic for today and answer the question in this post.
In my book Developing the Leaders Around You, I devote an entire chapter to identifying potential leaders to develop. To me, this is the primary responsibility of any leader, and it’s also one of the most challenging tasks leaders face. It’s crucial to get it right.
So what should you look for when you’re recruiting people to your side? Here are the five key areas I believe you should focus on:
Without a doubt, the first thing you should look for in others in character. Strength of character is the foundation of all leadership; if a person’s character is flawed, their leadership will be as well.
While there are many excellent character qualities to look for, there is one that stands above all others: integrity. And I ask three easy questions to help assess a person’s integrity:
Do they take responsibility for both their successes and their failures?
Do they fulfill their promises and obligations?
Do they meet their deadlines consistently?
Besides answering these questions in a work or volunteer environment, you can tell much about people’s character from how well they manage their personal lives and primary relationships. How would the people closest to them answer the questions above? Taking the time to get to know some of the key people around a person is a great way to learn about the person him- or herself.
2. Positive Attitude
After character, one of the most valuable assets anyone can possess is a good attitude. In fact, a person with a positive mindset can rightfully be called a no-limits person. This person isn’t willing to stop when discouraged, or turn back when things get tough. The person with a positive attitude keeps looking for a way forward because they believe that way exists!
People with positive attitudes do things others can’t, see things others won’t, and go places others don’t go. Their willingness to see potential even in the most challenging circumstances sets the tone for everyone around them, and that makes them exceptional people to spend time with and develop.
We often take for granted that people are self-disciplined—especially if we are disciplined ourselves! But the truth is that doing the things that need to be done, when they need to be done, isn’t something everyone embraces. There is a limited number of people willing to pay the price to chase what could be.
The quickest way to determine if a person is self-disciplined is to look at two key areas: their emotions and their time. Self-disciplined people don’t allow the emotions of others to overwhelm them; in a volatile moment, they can keep a cool head. Self-disciplined people likewise don’t allow the urgency or distractions of the moment to command their attention. They know how to focus on what truly matters. If you can find someone in control of their emotions and their time, chances are you’ve found a person with great self-discipline.
4. People Skills
To be a leader, by definition, you have to work with other people—and that’s where people skills come in. When looking for people to raise up as leaders, you should always look for those who have an ability to understand others, and who make positive interactions with others a primary goal. How we behave toward others determines how they will behave toward us.
Besides valuing people in general and treating them well, another key component of good people skills is the ability to communicate well. You want potential leaders who can express themselves in a way that wins people to their cause. Good communicators desire to truly communicate, not impress, so they work hard to make their message clear. They also focus on the listener, making good eye contact and smiling to show engagement. And good communicators also have the ability to connect with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations—which makes working with others much easier!
5. Discontent with the Status Quo
If you’re looking to develop someone to carry on your vision, you need to select someone with vision of their own. This doesn’t mean their vision is more important than yours, or that they should argue with you about what’s right, but they should appreciate the value of vision. You want someone who isn’t content to accept things as they are; they should be someone who wants to break new ground.
Don’t get me wrong—you need someone who is willing to work with you. You don’t want someone who grumbles or has a negative attitude about everything. What I’m talking about is more of a willingness to be different and take risks. You want people who are willing to change and grow—and push you to do the same. Leaders who become satisfied with with the status quo very quickly become followers.
I keep a constant eye out for potential leaders no matter where I go, and I encourage you to do the same. Look for men and women with a good attitude who genuinely like others and want to help make their community a better place. Look for people who have the character and discipline to follow through on their word. I promise you, they are out there.
But once you discover them, don’t stop there! Have a cup of coffee with them, or spend some time getting to know them. You can’t develop leaders if you’re not willing to invest your time and effort. At first, this might feel like you’re sacrificing “work” time for something lower-priority, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The time you invest in developing other leaders will multiply your efforts. Together, you’ll be able to achieve much more than you could ever do alone.
Whether you’re a one-man show looking to expand or an established leader looking to break through to the next level, the truth is you can’t achieve your best without a team to help you. Good leaders deliberately seek out and find potential leaders. Great leaders not only find them; they help them become great leaders in their own right.