Leadership is not tied to position or title. As we have seen, there are those in a leadership role who are not leaders and those who demonstrate leadership who are not currently in a position of authority.
Companies often operate under the assumption that leaders should be recruited from outside the organization in order to bring in fresh and new ideas. In other companies, a person is promoted into a leadership role quite simply because they are “next in line”. They may not be the best choice and they may not even want to lead, but are hesitant to turn down any opportunity for advancement.
What makes a great leader? Are there great leaders among the ranks of your workforce who have yet to be put in a position where they can really make a difference at a higher level? John Quincy Adams was once quoted as saying, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, and become more, you are a leader.” There is no litmus test to determine if someone will be a good leader. Some questions during an interview regarding past experiences and tough decisions can shed some light on a person’s leadership skills. However, the best way to recognize a strong leader is to observe the following traits.
A strong leader…
Leads through relationships - Most untapped leaders have no position of authority from which to lead or influence action. Even if their co-workers like them, it does not mean they will follow them. A natural leader demonstrates confidence in their abilities and in their decision-making skills. These individuals have a genuine concern for the customer and the company’s success. They have a strong grasp on reality and the right way to do something. This attitude and these actions build trust. People will always connect with and follow someone they trust.
Demonstrate Integrity - True leadership includes commitment and accountability. There is no “passing the buck” or throwing another co-worker “under the bus” when mistakes are made. They are also not afraid to voice their opinions if they feel it is important to be heard regarding a better process or a bad decision. Reliability, dependability and consistency is what people look for when choosing who to connect with and who to follow.
Focuses on Results - A leader will look at the forest and not just at the trees. They see beyond the yardage it takes to get to the goal line and concentrates on the goal. Moreover, if they see an obstacle in the way of achieving that goal, they will find a way around it, even if that means challenging current leadership with regards to process or procedures. A strong leader will find a way to succeed and inspire others to follow them in search of that success.
Understands the Customer - Leaders among your workforce will consider how their contribution can influence the quality of the company’s product or service and how that can affect the customer. In other words, pride. These individuals will show up every day and perform to the best of their ability in order to produce the best product or service possible. Further, they will take it upon themselves to work with other co-workers to make certain their productivity is the best it can possibly be as well. They understand how their work affects the customer experience and how that can then affect the company reputation. This dedication can be infectious among the workforce.
Having strong leadership is essential to business success and continuity. Strong leaders, however, are not necessarily only found in positions of authority and leadership. Seek out these untapped leaders within your workforce. Approach them with an opportunity to advance to a position where they can really make a difference - for themselves, their co-workers, and the organization.