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5 Things to Look for in a Future Leader

March 7, 2023
Bosses tend to emphasize the power of their position, while good leaders will concentrate on the influence they have on others.

One of the main reasons employees leave companies is their boss. Note that there is a difference between a “boss” and a leader.  When you have too many bosses and not enough leaders, you probably have a higher-than-normal turnover rate and a constant churn of new hires impacting other metrics – such as quality, production, delivery, and safety.

These bosses can wreak havoc with your current employees but also with your labor pool. Social media apps like Glassdoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn let potential hires not only see your dirty laundry, but smell it, too. Your reputation as an organization now goes beyond the borders of your community.

Do not leave your organization’s future to chance. Actively identify leaders when you promote people into supervisory positions. Look for leaders instead of promoting bosses.

Impactful leaders usually exhibit common behaviors. It’s not who but rather what you need to look for. Bosses tend to be more about the power of their position, while good leaders look at the influence of their position. With that understanding, your task is to identify what to look for in those who will become leaders in your organization.

1. Earns Confidence and Trust

These people have the experience, knowledge, and performance record to earn them respect from their peers. They are dependable and accountable, a model employee. People will probably describe this employee as a good person, knowledgeable, and a “hard worker.” The fact that this person has earned people’s trust tells you they have earned respect. This person will treat people how they want to be treated. This flexibility is key to great leadership—adapting their style to motivate the individual in front of them as much as possible. 

2. Engages Others to Ensure Buy-in, Commitment

As employees move from individual contributors to supervisor/managers, you need them to get along with other supervisor/managers. You do not want them setting up silos.

These people work well with everyone. They have friends at work and are good at setting up informal networks with people throughout the facility.

They are good negotiators, and they understand success is about us, not me. They are probably known for having good suggestions, but also listen to others’ suggestions.

3. Builds Effective Teams and Gets Things Done

People who are effective leaders are natural coaches. They understand the key to success for any team is to develop the people who work for them. When new people come on board, it is probably this person who does most of the training.

This is also someone who knows how to ask for help. Delegating is a form of trust. People who seem like natural coaches tend to trust the people that work for them – so they are more likely to delegate. Those who do not trust and do not delegate end up doing the work themselves and burn themselves out.

4. Models Ways to Create Change

These people would not be described as negative. They come across as someone who generally wants to do what is best for the company. They are not interested in gossip, finding it wasteful and destructive. They talk more about process improvement and how to solve issues, and are involved in one or more process improvement teams at the facility. They are not afraid to speak up at meetings with meaningful, constructive dialogue. They have a great work ethic and practice what they preach. People probably refer to them as a problem-solver.

5. Provides Employees with Direction

Bosses have probably noticed these employees understand the “big picture.” You don’t have to spell it out. They get how all the various parts of the organization fit together and what it takes for it to be successful. They are good communicators, and are good at sharing information with others.

There is no silver bullet to great leadership. Companies with great cultures never leave anything to chance. With everything being equal, they go the distance. They take the time to carefully promote future leaders and by doing so, put themselves ahead of their competition.

Jay Richards is a partner and a member of the founding team at Denison, a firm specializing in corporate culture and leadership development.