There is a common misconception about leadership that the person with the highest ranking title is the leader. In reality, a leader is simply the person in the room that carries the most influence.
Many times that is not the person with the highest rank or the more prestigious title. Many businesses and companies are chalk full of employees and executives that look great on paper, but actually lack critical leadership skills that are necessary for the inherent success of any team, department or business.
Here are 5 ways to identify and develop true leaders.
1. Don’t listen to only what your employee’s supervisors say about them, listen to their peers and subordinates.
For decades, performance evaluations have been conducted by an employee’s superior. However, it is very easy for employees to put on one face for their superior and a completely different one for their peers and subordinates.
In other cases, a supervisor may actually feel threatened by a subordinate with great leadership skills and may attempt to sabotage their career by giving them poor performance reviews.
To combat both of these issues, many businesses are turning to a 360 degree feedback model, which takes into account feedback from supervisors, peers, subordinates and customers when creating employee evaluations.
Not only does this give the employee a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, but it can also help executives better spot leadership potential.
2. Create opportunities for everyone to lead
Some of the best leaders are reluctant leaders. If given the choice, they would never voluntarily step up and lead, but when suddenly faced with a situation in which no one else is willing to step up, natural leaders step into position and shine.
You can sit and wait for these rare moments to happen or you can create them. Creating opportunities for every one of your team members to lead might lead to some surprises as to who succeeds brilliantly and who fails spectacularly.
3. Cultivate leaders
While there is some debate about whether leadership can be taught, there is no doubt that it needs careful cultivation. No matter how many leadership skills a person might possess, they don’t come to fruition without cultivation.
Unless you want your best and brightest leaders to move on to a place where they have better opportunities and better mentorship, every business should have a leadership development program of some kind.
4. Give your teams opportunities to fail and then watch how they handle it
Perhaps one of the most enduring hallmarks of all great leaders is how they deal with failure. Like the old proverb goes, fall 9 times, get up 10. Too often, businesses short change the process of identifying great leaders by simply firing individuals who fail, rather than giving them a chance to see how they handle it.
Great leaders are not people who never fail, great leaders are like Phoenixes that rise from the ashes, stronger and better than ever before.
5. Rethink your definition of leadership
Often, the best leaders don’t look like leaders. A leader is not someone who issues orders and has the power to make people follow them. The leader is the person that gives everyone on the team confidence that they can do the task or the person that can break large tasks down into smaller components and assign them to the people who are best equipped to accomplish them.
In many cases, this happens swiftly, silently and so synergistically that no one – not even the leader or the people being led – are even aware it is happening. In many cases, it may happen so naturally, even the boss is not aware they are not the leader.
Great leadership might seem to be one of the scarcest sources of human capital, but is it really? When a diamond comes out of a mine, it just looks like an ordinary crystal.
Most people that ran across a raw, uncut diamond would have no idea what they are looking at and it seems as if the same is true of great leaders. For businesses to experience their best chance of success, they need to learn to recognize a diamond in the rough.