Five Ways To Spot A Good Leader

For many of you, finding new leaders is an on-going challenge.  

In HR world, they call this the “bench-strength” issue and it can be a game changer.  As companies expand, new divisions are formed, requiring fresh leaders to guide them to effectiveness.  For startups, this is even more critical.  Pick the wrong one and you lose time, and often good talent. 

Too often, we rely on the resume to find leaders.  Or we let managers grow up into leading, mostly a matter of attrition.  File that approach under Peter Principle. That’s why so many ‘leaders’ are managers in power clothing.  Over my career, I’ve recruited, fired and  studied leaders.  Recently, I’ve consulted with companies on leader spotting.  There are six sure signs that you should look for when considering a promotion or a hire at a leadership position in your company: 

1. She Has Followers – As the old Chinese proverb indicates, “without followers, you are just taking a walk.” When she calls a meeting, including dotted line participants, do people show up? Do they pay attention and contribute? When she rolls out an initiative, do others listen and understand?  Are they inspired to action? Here’s a little trick: Is she often accused of poaching? Does everyone want to transfer to her group, to work with her? (PS – research suggests that a permissive manager is not a popular destination for real talent, they usually pick highly effective managers that will challenge them and win in the market.)

2. He Has A Bias To Action – When I worked for Tim Koogle (first CEO at Yahoo), he talked about how some managers were ‘ings’, always study-ing or think-ing about doing something.  He told me the real leaders were ‘eds’, meaning, they execut-ed, fail-ed and learn-ed.  Great leaders help thier teams make the leap from talking to doing.  No happy talk! 

3. She Is A Better Listener Than Talker – In a meeting, especially with her team, does she listen more than talk? Can she leave a room understanding the emotions as well as the facts? Does she have the capacity to show empathy? This is important, because if the leaders isn’t a deep listener, they’ll fail to see the entire playing field.  Not listening is also a leadership problem from a trust standpoint. For my second book, my team conudcted a survey on the issue of trust and “doesn’t pay attention when I’m talking to him” was a leading non-trust indicator, right up there with “lied to me”.

4. He Has Emotional Talent – Connected with the last point, the real leader has a combination of emotional intelligence and generosity.  He’s in control of his emotions and respectful of others. He wants to create customer delight and be part of a great employership experience.  He realizes that long after his troops forget all the things he did for them, they mostly remember how he made them feel. (thanks Maya). 

5. She Is A Multiplier Of Her People’s Potential – In her fabulous book, Multipliers, author Liz Wizeman points out that there are two types of managers: Multipliers and Diminishers.  The former creates a good place to grow and the latter creates a place where dreams die.  The multiplier is not a hoarder of resources like the diminisher.  She stretches people to deliver beyond their self-perceived potential.  She doesn’t think of her self as the brain, with a number of hands that ‘help’. She measures her success in a triple bottom line capacity: Enterprise, People, Self.  In that order. 

If you’ve crafted some leader-spotting techniques, contribute them in comments!