Successful leaders are people who have the ability to develop followers who will support the leader and act on what the leader requires because they want to do so, rather than because they have to do so. We have demonstrated elsewhere that such leaders show two paradoxical attributes. We must be aware of these and how they pattern in order to identify a strong potential leader.
The first attribute can be described as a soft attribute because it reflects a kindness of the leader toward the follower. We have called this attribute Care and is manifest in behaviour such as the leader being able to listen, be empathic, supportive, helpful and displaying a genuine interest in the subordinate.
The second attribute has a harder edge to it and includes attributes such as the leader being knowledgeable, decisive, fair and honest. Clearly, if the leader is always honest then that leader will not always be nice, but the benefit to the subordinate is that the subordinate knows where they stand and can therefore improve. The second attribute has been called Growth.
What to look out for in a potential leader.
Selecting for these attributes in a potential leader can be significantly enhanced if one had a bit of a checklist of behaviours in both the Care and Growth categories to watch out for.
Behaviours associated with Care
A person who is likely to care for subordinates once they have been elevated to a leadership position will demonstrate the following behaviours:
- The person would generally be experienced as courteous. They are good with interpersonal rituals such as greeting and inquiring after other people’s wellbeing. They would display this courtesy not just to peers and superiors but also to people who could be designated as less senior than themselves.
- The person would make an effort to remember people’s names.
- The person would listen well. Even in a dispute with peers and less senior people they demonstrate an ability to suspend their agenda to give attention to the agenda of the other.
- The person would be aware of things affecting other people in their environment. They would, for example, remember birthdays or be acquainted with names of children and spouses of their colleagues.
- The person would show gratitude to others easily. The person would also be very explicit that their own success is due to forces beyond their own control. This may even include a conviction by the person that they are lucky, or have been inordinately blessed.
Behaviours associated with Growth
A person who is likely to Grow subordinates once they have been elevated to a leadership position will demonstrate the following behaviours:
- While they remain courteous, they would always be willing to ‘speak the truth to power’. The person would demonstrate, therefore, that doing what is right is more important than doing what is popular.
- The person will always credit peers or less senior people when those people have contributed to their own success. Conversely, the person will not take credit for what they have not done.
- The person would display a real curiosity in and knowledge of the business at hand.
- When the person is faced with the distinction between what is the expedient thing to do in a situation and what is the right thing to do in a situation they will consistently do what is right.
- The person does not act like a victim or blame others when things go wrong.