Early Leaders: Six Super Signs

Nurturing tomorrow’s leaders is critical to succession planning. William Buttery & Barry identify six signs to help to spot those individuals…

Successful succession planning

In any business or organisation, identifying and then nurturing the leaders of tomorrow is the key to successful succession planning. Here are six signs noted from our different experiences we think help to spot those individuals who will be leaders, rather than followers, as they progress through their chosen career, whether paid, voluntary or not-for-profit.

Assertiveness: question everything

‘He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.’
Chinese Proverb

Assertiveness, in its true sense, is a little-used skill. It is not the ability to question something, for that is just self-confidence. Rather, it is knowing when to question and how to do so effectively. To be assertive is to let others know what you do and do not want in a confident and direct way. Both passive and aggressive people relate to others as though only one person counts: themselves. In contrast, assertive people are concerned with a fair deal for everyone. You will be respected and feel valued.

Effective networking: genuine communication

Good looks and a coy smile won’t really get you very far. You’ve got to make your own luck. Use every opportunity to prove your worth, but don’t push the boundaries. Nobody likes a try-hard (you are making friends and not enemies, remember), or a ‘smart Alec’. Being yourself and holding genuine conversations will make you well respected and can open doors – just don’t expect them to be opened for you.

Hold your head up high, shoulders back, chin up and don’t underestimate the merit of a good handshake.

Intuitive: people will follow

A good leader is intuitive about all sorts of things, but especially how to capture the mood of the moment. In the wisdom of crowds, there are always leaders who understood first what is going on, or about to happen, and then act upon it. Leaders know this phenomenon intuitively, they do not have to be taught. However, this does not mean it cannot be taught, but it does need very good judgement if it is not one of your innate skills.

Organiser: all leaders are good organisers

From their own life, to their career, to tasks, through events, leaders can marshall their thoughts into actions, usually quicker than followers. It is about the ability to conceive, plan and implement. This is a skill that others recognise as ‘a safe pair of hands’, which some might call ‘damned by faint praise’, but actually it gets the leader ahead of the curve and influencing others…just like the control of the flip-chart in a brainstorm session.

Out-of-the-box: the ability to think differently

This talent will set emerging leaders apart. It is all about other people thinking or saying aloud: ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ There are various ways to get your brain to think beyond the envelope, laterally or even just differently. The key is to recognise that any idea is a good idea in a safe environment. When in an open forum when opinion counts, simply process the ideas a little further in your mind before announcing them to the group: will the idea actually work or could it be made to work, or is it just animated wishful thinking?

Willingness to listenand to learn

If you listen, you will learn. The experiences of others, who have already been where you are yet to journey, are valuable. An opportunity to listen and learn from them is invaluable. Apply or adapt the lessons to your own world and you can succeed. In order to get an answer though, you must first ask a question.

Ultimately, there is one word which sums up all the effect of all these traits: inspirational. All good leaders inspire their teams, their followers, even their acolytes. It is what makes people follow, or give up their own right to lead, or to make decisions. They are inspired to believe that the leader will exercise good judgement and make the right decisions for them.

Inspiring people is not something which it is easy to teach, but is innate to those leaders who will shape our business, or lives or our world.

William Buttery & Barry Gilbertson

Do let us know what you think. Are there other attributes we’ve overlooked? Let us know below.

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