Having great leadership in place is, of course, indispensable to operating a successful organization. But equally as important is being able to recognize emerging talent and envision a possible leadership role for these leadership-oriented people in the organization. Raw talent is necessary for successful leadership, but it isn’t enough. There’s such a thing as readiness to lead, and current leaders and decision makers need to know how to recognize it. Promoting someone prematurely (even if they show immense promise) is like picking non-ripe fruit and expecting it to improve dinner. It may be beautiful and promise good things, but its time has not yet come. Leaders in the making can benefit from executive coaching, but time alone will dictate when an emerging leader is really ready to lead. Here are some ways you can tell if someone who shows promise is ready to be a leader.
Do They Demonstrate Integrity?
If there is a single most important quality that demonstrates someone is ready for leadership, it is integrity. People with integrity are “whole” in the sense that they understand themselves, know their strengths, know their weaknesses, and aren’t ashamed to admit they’re far from perfect. Integrity is largely about self-honesty, and if someone can’t be honest with themselves, how can anyone expect them to be honest with everyone else? Integrity does not mean that a person has reached the pinnacle of accomplishment, only that they know who they are and what they’re about, and they don’t mentally view themselves with a distorted mirror. Without integrity, the other characteristics of great leaders can’t deliver.
Do They Encourage and Embrace Learning and Curiosity?
Not only should leaders encourage their team members and direct reports to continue to learn and grow mentally, spiritually, and intellectually, they should strive to do the same for themselves. Constancy of underlying principles is important, but so is the realization that change is inevitable, and there is always something to learn or improve at. If a purported leader thinks they have reached the summit and no longer need to reach beyond their grasp, they’re not good for long-term organizational success.
Leaders embrace learning and encourage it in others.
Do They Already Function as a Manager for All Intents and Purposes?
Have you ever had a department grow rapidly and then watch someone emerge from the ranks and take it upon themselves to lead even without a promotion or change in job title? These people can make outstanding leaders because they understand that while “leadership” as a concept is important, it is the verb from of the word (“to lead”) that is where results happen or don’t happen. A person who functions as a well-liked manager when they see that management and leadership are necessary is a person who is likelier to be ready for the job title to match.
Do They Volunteer for Tough Jobs, or Jobs Nobody Wants?
Of course everyone is going to volunteer for the project that involves traveling to Hawaii or working with a well-known person. But what about the person who is willing to take on the jobs that are necessary, but not glamorous? The people who are at the top of their competency can work magic in a wide range of circumstances. A gifted pianist can make wonderful music with a neglected, dusty piano stored in a back room, just like a top soccer player can set up a great game on a vacant lot with a couple of traffic cones marking the goals.
Look for the people who are willing to get in there and take the jobs no one else will take because they’re complicated, potentially boring, or promise no glory. These are the people who know how to make the most of a situation, and it’s good to have them as leaders. A CEO coach can only do so much with someone who got the job before they were ready. And while an executive coach can work with just about anyone and get results, true leadership must be ready to come into its own before the real leadership magic can happen.