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“I was offered a promotion to management,” a friend recently informed us. “You guys know me. I honestly don’t know if I’m leadership material.”
While we could have just sent our friend a message back saying, “Yes. You’ll make a great leader.” Her question made us curious to find out the top 10 signs you might be leadership material and not even realize it. But, we didn’t want to just share our thoughts. We also wanted thoughts from other well-known experts.
1. You expect setbacks. Rarely do things work out exactly as planned. And, when you lead people, you have to accept and expect that sometimes people make mistakes, choose a dead-end path on a project, or drop the ball. In fact, these setbacks often inspire better innovation and results as employees discover, “what doesn’t work.” Our friend Jay Samit, author of Disrupt You,may have said it best when he told us, “I have always told my employees that if they do not fail within the first year of employment, they will be fired.” He continued, “If people are not failing then they aren’t truly trying to improve something.”
2. You believe everyone wants to be their best. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking employees who perfectly meet expectations by following rules, policies, and procedures are the best employees. However, leaders who truly appreciate people for what they are trying to accomplish, rather than what they’ve already accomplished, inspire the best from people. “We often get stuck focusing on the policies, procedures, and business systems of work, but forget the fact that we’re all just people trying to do great work,” Prabir JHA, president and global chief people officer at CIPL told us.
3. You seek differing opinions and perspectives. While many of us choose friends based on similar interests and perspectives of the world around us, great leaders seek opinions from people who may not agree with them. In fact, our friend Tim Sanders, bestselling author of Deal Storming, told us, “Companies and people need to stop living and working in silos. It’s the collective input from different departments, different perspectives, and different networks that enable the biggest deals.”
4. You enjoy removing hurdles. This may sound strange at first, but we’ve seen how many of the best leaders are constantly looking for barriers and hurdles to remove, so their teams can focus on the goals at hand. Our friend and author of the upcoming book, Hope is a Strategy, former Sony Pictures Executive, Libby Gill said, “It’s not enough anymore to just bring out the leadership in yourself. If you are not creating leaders at all levels of your organization, you’re just not fulfilling the obligation of the role. It’s what’s notin the job description, that defines you as a leader.”
5. Results and trust are more important than control. Control may sound appealing to some people…but it’s rarely, if ever, appealing to the people who are being controlled. Our friend and author of Make Change Work, Randy Pennington recently told us during an interview, “A leader has power. But, that power comes from trust rather than fear. Good leaders pay attention to relationships as well as results, and they stress credibility rather than control. As a result, they generate confidence in their people rather than cynicism.”
6. You care about “the rest of their lives.” The idea that we can separate our work lives from our home lives would require us to be robots. The best leaders care about their people outside of work too—their health, and their happiness. As Tom Rath, our friend and author of Strengths Finder 2.0 and Are You Fully Charged? told us, “The most important thing leaders can do is send a clear message to their employees that they care about each person’s overall wellbeing, and that they want to be a part of helping it improve over time.”
7. You get excited about other people’s talent. Whether it’s performing complex mathematics in their head, articulating a concern, or having impeccable hand-eye coordination while operating a machine, great leaders are awestruck by other people’s talent. The one-time Chairman and CEO of Epic Records, author of the bestselling memoir Sing to Me: My Story of Making Music, Finding Magic, and Searching for Who’s Next, and record producer A. Reid said, “The deepest and most sincere feeling I get is when I meet an artist and they have that steel in their eyes and they have that fire and that passion and all they want is to be a star and to hear themselves on the radio.”
8. You understand the goal is to help them succeed. Although this may sound obvious, we’ve met many new managers who think the opposite—that their team should be helping them succeed. Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin By Deloitte, told us, “The most important role a leader plays is his or her ability to inspire and energize the team.”
9. You get “ownership.” While many of us might not be official owners of the companies we work for, great leaders understand ownership in a different way—accountability, for yourself and your team. Our dear friend Cy Wakeman, author of the brand-new book, No Ego, is quoted for saying, “Once we stop focusing on what is happening ‘to’ us, and focus instead on what we can do within our current circumstances to succeed, we will get the results we’re looking for.”
10. You understand the power of appreciation. While the two of us could recite research, data, stories, and personal experiences about the impact appreciation can have on your ability to lead, we thought it’d be best if we summarize by relaying the words of wisdom we received during a recent conversation with David Novak, co-founder and former chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, Inc., one of the world’s largest restaurant companies with over 43,000 restaurants in more than 130 countries and territories (KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell). Novak is also the author of the new book, Oh Great One: A Little Story About the Awesome Power of Recognition. “Recognition has the power to transform leaders into great leaders,” he said. “It can transform an entire culture.”
While these ten signs might just be the start of a more comprehensive list, if two or three really struck a nerve with you, then you might make a fantastic leader. And, if you’ve seen other signs of potential leadership qualities, we’d love to hear from you.
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