How to Evaluate a Potential Leader

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You have your eye on Jane. She seems to have potential to take on more responsibility and become a good leader. Terrific. But before you go any farther, you need to ensure Jane is really the right person for future leadership roles. You need to ask yourself a few questions and observe for the answers.

Does Jane subscribe to the company’s values? Does she exhibit personal values which are compatible with yours? If not, it will be very difficult to work with her. She may have potential but a value mismatch is very hard to overcome.

How does she get along with her co-workers? Leadership is not a popularity contest, but someone who doesn’t have a relatively good rapport with their peers will probably have a hard time working with anyone.

Is she reliable and trustworthy? You’re going to be placing more and more authority and responsibility in her hands. A lack of integrity or reliability will come back to you and can damage your effectiveness and reputation.

After you’ve answered these questions and you think you have your potential leader pegged, you need to do a little testing to see if you have it right.

First, get to know as much as possible about her. What’s her work record? Have there been problems with rules or policies in the past? Is she reliable? What are her strengths and weaknesses?

Second, carefully observe her on the job. Be inconspicuous about this as your very presence can change behavior. Watch to see how she interacts with others. Is she courteous with fellow workers and with her own boss? Human relationship skills are important and I’ve found that, in general, people who can’t get along with others usually don’t make very good leaders. Watch for the person who appears to carry a grudge. There may be a good reason for that and it might be something that can be resolved; but, it might also just be a sign of someone who is never happy with anything.

Third, use a small task (a genuine requirement, not something made up for the purpose) to give Jane a chance to show leadership. Don’t expect an amazing transformation to happen at this point; but just watch to see how she handles the situation. What you’re really looking for is how she attempts to accomplish the task. Actual success is of less importance.

One final thought on selecting new leaders. You will probably have someone who thinks they are the next great leader and wants you to know that, but who you just don’t feel has the kind of potential you’re looking for. Don’t string them on. I’ve seen leaders who will let a subordinate think they are in line for the next big promotion and use that expectation to entice them to do all manner of difficult or unpleasant tasks. That’s not fair and will just cause discontent in the end. Be honest and if they don’t measure up to what you’re looking for, tell them.

To see a video of this article and other tips go to https://www.youtube.com/user/RLMBobMason


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