Good leaders are easy to ID once they’re in their role. And so are bad ones. Good leaders boost engagement and productivity while bad ones stall them out like a teenager driving a stick shift.
Putting responsibility in the hands of the right person determines so many outcomes that it really is the most important choice you can make. Too often promotions go to the highest producer, the person who’s been there the longest, or even the person who’s befriended the boss. But the highest performing companies use a much more involved process to uncover great candidates for advancement.
Often the best place to start is by keeping a pulse on the team dynamics where your emerging leaders are hard at work. Who these people are right now is a great indicator of who they’ll be in a leadership role. You may think you know who the MVPs of your team are, but many leaders are more out of touch with the day-to-day operations than they realize. A jam-packed schedule makes it hard to gain the fullest understanding of complex team dynamics and individuals’ specific contributions that matter.
Moreover, your ideas about what a leader looks like may have a lot to do with the leaders you’ve experienced, and that’s highly subjective. The truth is, leaders come in all shapes and sizes. There are actually 8 dimensions of leadership according to Wiley’s Everything DiSC ® methodology. Good leaders can be soft-spoken or loud, highly creative, or staunchly process-driven. And while you might immediately recognize a staffer showing a familiar leadership quality from your past, you could overlook someone with stellar leadership qualities that are playing well now in the current team dynamic and set of circumstances.
Dedicate a company outing or weekly meetings and one-on-one chats to picking up on these four qualities, which translate into effective leadership potential.
# 1. Positive Attitude
These employees are positive most of the time. They’re not always stressed out. What this shows is their ability to approach challenges in a healthy and effective way. Stressed out team members have a hard time thinking clearly with so much anxiety and tension clogging up their brains. Stress sucks energy that could have gone to building new pathways and solutions. Stressed out co-workers can make others on the team stressed as well! Sometimes these stress balls are open about it because they want others to know they’re workhorses. But if a person is already drowning in life as it is, how are they going to handle more responsibility?
A positive person in the group lights up the entire organization. A positive person looks for the opportunities packaged in problems. The positive outlook is not the same as a pollyanna type of naivete. It’s a strength that draws others in and invigorates the team. Your positive team members stand tall, laugh, and seem like they sleep more (even if they don’t.)
#2. Takes Responsibility
Who on your team runs head-on into challenges rather than avoiding them? Who’s not afraid to get their hands dirty and do what’s necessary to drive results even when it’s not comfortable? Who’s side-by-side in the trenches with their teammates, helping them along? A leadership-bound employee is one that not only accepts responsibility for their role in the organization, but they look for opportunities to take on more responsibility. They assume ownership of company goals. They don’t point fingers when failures happen. They admit when they make mistakes and avoid excuses. These people bring up issues to solve them, not to simply complain about them. They don’t cut corners. They come and go on-time. They’re reliable and accessible. They answer calls and have few sick days. Basically, they show up for you like it’s their name on the wall.
#3. Encourages Others
Remember the guy from your early days that always had to have the last thought? The guy that teased your office mate when she came in late that one time? You always had to watch what you said around that guy because it could make it’s way to someone superior with zero context. Nobody liked that guy. And while there’s no guarantee there’s someone like that in the ranks you manage now, but there probably is. While these people are keen to climb the corporate ladder by pushing others down, your true diamond in the making makes a point to build others up whenever possible.
You’ll recognize an encouraging person when you discuss accomplishments and this person elaborates on what someone else did to contribute. This person gets excited about other team members’ successes and empathizes with them in times of struggle. This person keeps confidences out of principle whenever possible. So they’re likely not the one you go to for ground intelligence. Look for the co-worker the younger you would want to work with.
#4. Tactful Speaker
You know a tactful person when you see them because you can relax. They’re high up on the self-awareness scale, which means they rarely say the wrong thing. These people understand how others may perceive what they say and do. So they never go off the rails in terms of internal or external conduct. These people know when to speak and when to listen. They do a good job of balancing the needs of the company with the needs of their teammates and their own. You wouldn’t hear a tactful employee talking brashly to clients of peers. They don’t let their ego and need for esteem control their communication. They’re good at regulating their emotions and don’t exhibit wide swings in mood. They communicate to understand and move forward, not to be heard or to blow off steam.
So if you’re on the hunt for your next great manager, director, or VP keep these four leadership traits in mind the next time you get the chance to observe your team. They will tell you a deeper story about who’s who on the floor. And when you understand that clearly, you’ll be able to recognize your next leader who will flourish in the role while keeping other employees productive and inspired.