Spotting Leadership Potential

The real leaders in many organizations are not obvious by their positions.

Often they are hidden, but identifying them for development and future leadership is critical to the organization’s success.

Based on observation in diverse organizational sectors that span the globe, here are four indicators to spot leadership potential. Identifying people for leadership roles who possess these latent abilities – even if they are still in raw form – is crucial since these characteristics are more difficult to cultivate within adults.

Four indicators to spot leadership potential:

1. Virtue

This term may seem like a throwback to the Victorian era, but virtue cannot be overlooked when looking for effective leaders. Essentially, virtue is the ability to align internal motives with external leadership behaviors. Virtue is the courage to adhere consistently to a strong internal ethical code in the public sphere, even in difficult and shifting circumstances.  This characteristic is an absolute bottom-line requirement. The hidden leader may not even be able to articulate the beliefs with great eloquence, but others will see this code consistently in action.

2. Capacity to influence

A few years ago, I was coaching two younger middle-management women in a Singapore company who had been tagged by executives as up-and-coming leaders. One clearly showed the capacity to influence others; the other resorted to positional power to achieve results. Those with real leadership potential will employ relational influence to mobilize others before they are granted positional authority.

3. Self-awareness

Those with raw leadership potential have a knack for accurate self-assessment; they know instinctively how they are perceived by other people.  Moreover, this self-awareness translates into the ability to control their actions and reactions in order to solicit positive responses from others.

4. Inquisitiveness

Potential leaders possess the insatiable desire to ask “why” or “why not.”  Although these questions can threaten entrenched leadership, this inbred leadership quality is indispensable for people and organizations to maintain a competitive edge in their rapidly changing environment.

Hidden leaders are one of the most powerful energy sources within organizations.

By discovering and developing these leaders, organizations can cultivate these individuals to realize their potential as the organization charts an intentional path toward better performance.

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