4 leadership qualities you may have overlooked when identifying future leaders
Consider this quote from Forbes.com columnist Victor Lipman, who believes the most effective executives he’s met display “realistic assessments of their own abilities – their strengths and weaknesses, their effect on others, the gaps that needed to be filled.”
That’s not to say the leader of the future will be crippled by self-doubt. Instead, self-awareness and balance is key, says Simon Moylan, Hudson’s Executive General Manager of Talent Management Asia Pacific.
For organisations, what is also key is to understand what a potential leader “looks like”, because it may not be the same picture that either individuals or employers carry in their minds.
For individuals, that involves knowing their own leadership qualities: their strengths, weaknesses and where they have ‘gaps’. For employers, it involves helping individuals recognise their strengths and weaknesses, and begin to help close those gaps.
Hudson recently had the opportunity to create an accurate profile of just these requirements. We asked a sample group of emerging leaders a series of questions designed to glean the attributes and characteristics they all shared. Here’s a brief snapshot:
- Strong on leadership qualities, less on social
Emerging leaders are already comfortable in leading – but they are less socially confident than both those who’ve already made it to the top and their peers. They set themselves apart and focus on getting things done rather than making friends. “That doesn’t mean they’re quiet,” says Moylan. “But they focus on getting results rather than making friends.”
Individuals with the potential to be great leaders tend to prefer to work independently to achieve results, and have been promoted for it. “If they commit to doing something, an emerging leader will do every single thing in his or her power to achieve the goal,” says Moylan.
- Outgoing but uncomfortable with change
Emerging leaders are extraverts, and great communicators with a gift for persuasion. They can however be uncomfortable in complex or unfamiliar situations, which then dilutes their power to motivate others.
“Once they get to the more senior levels, then these people will need to develop relationship capabilities to be successful,” says Moylan. “Every step up the ladder you take, achieving results relies less and less on individual performance and more on the need to engage, inspire and motivate other people.”
- Mentally flexible, yet conservative
Comfortable dealing with abstract concepts, emerging leaders keep themselves out of the detail. They also have a tendency to shun taking a leap of faith, preferring instead to analyse the situation carefully, gather all of the facts and choose a course of action with a high probability of success.
How to get to that C-suite table
For anyone looking to improve their leadership potential, or for employers seeking to grow emerging leaders, it’s important to remember that people strong on all types of leadership qualities are “really, really rare,” says Moylan. The trick is to “find someone who is strong on a few factors, increase their awareness of their gaps, and then begin to bridge those gaps.”
In Moylan’s view, this is where an external consultant can deliver lasting value. “There has to be something that happens that tells people there’s a gap. In a normal everyday work environment, people don’t get much feedback on their leadership weaknesses and if they do it’s easy to think, ‘Well, that’s just John’s opinion. Why do I care what he thinks?’
“Whereas if you have an external consultant giving an objective, robust assessment, that may be when the penny drops. That may be the tipping point for both the emerging leader and the employer.”