Identifying Potential Leaders

Jason Shick
May 26, 2009 — 2,876 views  
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"The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it." - Theodore Roosevelt

One of the most difficult (yet most fulfilling) tasks a leader faces is the task of developing new leaders in any organization. Sometimes it is difficult to find leaders willing to take this step because it seems like long and difficult work for an unknown outcome. In some ways, this is true. A leader may pour themselves into somebody else only to see that person wither and die as a leader - or the person may become an excellent leader only to take a job for another company. However, the long term benefit to an organization far outweighs the potential loss from leaders who later jump ship. In fact, if the development process is done correctly, it should make the persons' loyalty to the company even stronger than it was before the development process began.

The first and most important element of developing leadership in your organization is to find the right people. Not every Tom, Dick, and Harry deserves the opportunity. Understand that I mean no harm in saying that, it is just the way the world works. Unfortunately, it seems that many times our society celebrates mediocrity. What I mean is that many of our schools and community programs teach that everybody deserves a prize, trophy, award, etc. Well, that isn't how the world really works and I feel we do a great disservice to our younger generation by passing out undeserved and/or unearned accolades. Finding the right people to teach requires a leader to be constantly looking for certain leadership qualities.

When picking out potential leaders it would do you well to remember the phrase "you will know them by their fruits". Talk is cheap, results have value. Potential leaders view themselves as leaders or at least as having the capacity to lead. They aren't arrogant, but they also don't possess a false sense of humility. When given the opportunity, they will step up to the plate. They don't offer excuses such as "oh, I'm no leader". They are consistent. They are controlled. Leaders are not procrastinators, they take action, and there is no postponing the trip with them. They want to get it done and get it done now. A good word for them would be rainmakers. But there is more to it then just results. Not all "rainmakers" make good leaders. Potential leaders are eager for the opportunity to learn and grow. They are committed to self-development. They are good with people and have the heart of a servant. These are the coveted fruits that are so valuable. If you want good leaders in your organization, you must look for good people, not those who just play the political game well. Abraham Lincoln said it correctly when he said "you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."

To conclude, you first need to look within (or outside) your organization for people who are driven and get things done. This is perhaps an obvious thing, but sometimes when a person impresses us it is easy to overlook their past failures and see only our hopes for them. We sometimes feel that under the right circumstances (i.e. leadership) their past results would look different. But the best indicator of future performance is always going to be past performance. If they pass that first test, you should next look for potential leaders who have a real genuineness to them and truly care about people. This can be faked for only so long. Be sure you find those who are not just playing the game. After you have found somebody with these two qualities, you must then decide if they are willing to make the commitment and sacrifices necessary to grow into their potential. No matter how great a person could be, they will never reach any of it without personal commitment. If any of the three elements (performance, sincerity, or commitment) is missing, then it is better to wait until you find somebody who meets all of the criteria then to pour your time and energy into a cracked vessel.

About the Author

Jason Shick is a husband, father, business owner, and speaker. To comment on this article or to read more like it, please visit

Jason Shick