Spotting a New Leader

Ten ways to identify a promising person.
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Dale Carnegie used to say, "I know men in the ranks who will not stay in the ranks. Why? Because they have the ability to get things done." In the military, it is called "completed staff work."

With potential leaders, when the work comes in, it's complete. The half-cooked meal isn't good enough.

7. Mental toughness. No one can lead without being criticized or without facing discouragement. A potential leader needs a mental toughness. I don't want a mean leader; I want a tough-minded leader who sees things as they are and will pay the price.

Leadership creates a certain separation from one's peers. The separation comes from carrying responsibility that only you can carry. Years ago, I spoke to a group of presidents in Columbus, Ohio, about loneliness in leadership.

One participant, president of an architectural firm, came up afterward and said, "You've solved my problem."

"What's your problem?" I asked.

"My organization's always confused," he said, "and I didn't know why. It's because I don't like to be lonely; I've got to talk about my ideas to the rest of the company. But they never know which ones will work, so everybody who likes my idea jumps to work on it. Those who don't, work against it. Employees are going backward and forward-when the idea may not even come about at all."

Fearing loneliness, this president was not able to keep his ideas to himself until they were better formulated. A leader must be able to keep his or her own counsel until the proper time.

8. Peer respect. Peer respect doesn't reveal ability, but it can show character and personality.

Trammell Crow, one of the world's most successful real estate brokers, said that he looks for people whose associates want them to succeed. He said, "It's tough enough to succeed when everybody wants you to succeed. People who don't want you to succeed are like weights in your running shoes."

Maxey Jarmen used to say, "It isn't important that people like you. It's important that they respect you. They may like you but not follow you. If they respect you, they'll follow you, even if perhaps they don't like you."

9. Family respect. I also look at the family of a potential leader: Do they respect him or her?

Fifteen years ago, my daughter said, "Dad, one thing I appreciate is that after you speak and I walk up, you are always attentive to me. You seem proud of me." That meant a lot to me.

If respect isn't there, that's also visible. At a church-growth conference, a well-dressed preacher approached me after I had spoken. A few steps behind him trailed his wife. He said, his chest swelling, "How would you like to come to my church and speak to a thousand people Sunday night?"

I couldn't resist saying, "I would have liked that in an earlier day, but I've given up speaking to smaller groups."

His wife's face lit up like a Christmas tree. Her body language revealed what she thought of her husband's egotism. The family's feelings toward someone reveal much about his or her potential to lead.

10. A quality that makes people listen to them. Potential leaders have a "holding court" quality about them. When they speak, people listen. Other people may talk a great deal, but nobody listens to them. They're making a speech; they're not giving leadership. I take notice of people to whom others listen.

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