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Who Can Be Leaders?

Who Can Be Leaders?

How can you recognize people who have real leadership potential? Leaders tend to be initiators who do the right things; managers are implementers who do things right.

During the recession, leaders and managers were challenged. Strengths came to the surface—and limitations became apparent. Amid the uncertainty, we asked: What are the makings of a true leader? What makes managers different from leaders? Which managers have the potential to become leaders?

Managers do financial analysis, market planning, and HR management. Leaders create visions. They are inspiring. They provide direction, create the music, orchestrate the resources, and create cultures where achievements are realized.

While managers and leaders share many similar qualities, the performance of a manager carries far fewer risks than the performance of a leader. And, we detect a difference in the motivational characteristics. This is not to say some people are incapable of leading. All of us can rise to the occasion, realize that this is our moment, and lead people out of a burning building—or answer some other situation. However, with true leaders, leading is part of who they are—part of their character, style, and purpose.

In a recent Caliper study, 300 presidents and CEOs told us what they consider to be the most important and most difficult aspects of leadership. They ranked various tasks: creating the right vision, getting people to embrace the vision, maintaining momentum (motivating. influencing and persuading), managing change (strategic planning, problem solving), surrounding yourself with the right people, developing staff (coaching, managing performance, transforming teams), and delegating.

Surrounding oneself with the right people was selected 41 percent of the time (second to creating the right vision) as one of the most critical elements, and one of the three most difficult (just behind maintaining momentum and developing staff). They said that three factors keep most managers from becoming leaders: not understanding others well enough, not solving problems quickly enough, and not taking necessary risks.

These CEOs felt they were born with 40 percent of their leadership ability and developed the remaining 60 percent through experience.

What personality qualities account for this 40 percent of innate leadership ability? They are bright, assertive, persuasive, empathic, and resilient. Having a need to get things done, they willingly take risks. They are also moderately sociable, have a healthy skepticism, and are motivated to come up with new ideas.

That’s a strong profile, and most managers just don’t measure up to it. They are rather conservative and succeed by working within guidelines, which is why they were hired.

So, how can potential leaders rise through the ranks of management? If they maintain the status quo, their leadership skills won’t be recognized. If they rock the boat, other managers may feel threatened and try to subvert them. Identifying and developing future leaders is a major challenge, as most organizations suffocate potential leaders.

Having leaders who are developed internally and focus on the same goal begins with clarity in what these leaders should be doing and self-awareness to understand what they’re great at.

Leaders don’t need to have all the answers. True leadership is transparent. Leaders need to be able to say, “I need some assistance with this” and delegate to people who complement their talents and styles. With self-awareness, leaders can function in streamlined ways, and the people around them will be more engaged when they feel trusted.

To realize your vision, you need to recognize the potential in future leaders; mentor, coach, and develop them; give them responsibility early; a different type of leader may be needed to take your company to new heights.

Herb Greenberg and Patrick Sweeney

First Appeared in:
Leadership Excellence

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