If you wanted to find the top banker in the world, where
would you look? I’m betting you’d start by looking at bankers. It only makes
sense. Seeking the top angler? Then consider people who fish. If you are looking
for a soccer coach, you’d consider people who coached soccer.
So why do companies who are seeking people to move into leadership roles not
look at people who’ve led? Beats me. But in too many companies, we don’t do
anything like that. Instead we promote the top sales people to sales manager. Or
we conduct sophisticated and expensive psychological evaluations to determine
who’s got the right personality or the right traits.
The good news is that you don’t have to go all sophisticated, expensive, and
guessy to pick good first time leaders. That’s because you’ve probably got a
pool of people who’ve demonstrated the behaviors you want in a leader. They’re
the ones who lead without position.
They’re willing to talk to other people about behavior and
They are willing to make decisions.
They enjoy helping others
They can express their ideas for how things should work.
People who do those things before you promote them are likely to do them
after you promote them. People who don’t aren’t.
You can make this more programmatic if you like. Give people interested in
leadership roles the opportunity to head up a temporary group, team, or task
force. Not only will you learn if they do the things that leaders should do,
they’ll discover if they like the work.
Boss’s Bottom Line
If you have people on your team who aspire to lead, give them opportunities
to try out the role. Then neither you nor they will have to guess if they can do
Thanks to Mike Myatt, whose excellent post, “Looking for Leadership” inspired this one.