On Leadership and Assessing Leadership Potential in Yourself and Others

Lee Ellis

Carla, a Senior Vice-President of a Fortune 200 company, has the challenge of evaluating the natural leadership potential of several team members. She had worked with all of them for some time, but she’s unsure about the best criteria to match the needed skills for the job with the potential candidates.

Not only does she want the person in the right role, but she needs someone that can produce results, increase productivity, and manage a cohesive team.

Knowing that 62% of executive decisions are made based solely on gut feelings, she wants to make a better hiring decision by obtaining more concrete data about each candidate.

Where Does She Start?

With over 30 years of research and experience in the fields of human behavior and performance, I believe that it’s unequivocally true that every person is unique and that all leaders (and the people they manage) have different talents. Here are some other confirmations:

  • The best leaders have a mix of natural and learned behaviors.
  • You can confirm that an individual belongs in a specific personality style, but the style categorization should not be used to put people in a “box”.
  • There are no good or bad personality styles to determine leadership ability—just different. Great leaders come from all styles.

So, it’s important to be objective and realize that anyone can become a successful leader.

Results vs. Relationships Evaluated

After evaluating that the base character and integrity of each candidate matches the values of the company, the next step is evaluating their results vs. relationships balance.

We’ve all been there and worked for the leader that got results but had no trusted relationships on their team. They were simply a machine that met the desired goals at any cost. On the flip side, there were the “fun leaders” that wasted hours every day talking and socializing with the team and then scrambled at the last minute to get a few things accomplished. They’re fun to be around, but results and progress ultimately fall short on a regular basis.

Statistically, 40% of leaders are more results (mission) oriented, and 40% are more relationships (people) oriented. The most effective leaders have balanced skills in both results and relationships.

For example, a successful leader must be tough or soft as the situation dictates.

Even though some leaders are naturally either tough or soft, that’s where our learned behaviors come into play to be truly successful.

Communication Style Analyzed

Another key area to evaluate is communication style when interacting with others. Think of the people on your own team or department and how different they are.

While the goal is treat everyone fairly, a successful leader understands the unique differences in people and communicates with them differently.

Some people will need more interaction with their manager than others in order to do a good job, while others are more self-managing. Some people work best when they can more on tasks, while others will work better when their work involves more frequent interaction with others.

The communication needs with these team members are different, too.

Successful leaders also need the courage do to the hard things such as confronting poor performance and bad behavior. It also takes courage for some leaders to do the soft things such as encouraging and supporting their people. Healthy accountability is critical to maintain standards and values, and that’s easier for some leaders to do than others.

All of these examples hinge on the leader’s natural and/or learned ability to communicate in different ways with different people.

The Next Step in Assessing Leaders

While other natural competencies such as problem-solving skills, decision-making skills, and support needed should also be considered, validating the key skills above is a wise endeavor.

To help with Carla’s hiring process, asking the right questions and using an assessment tool for each candidate will give her greater chances for success as she builds her team. With this new found data, she can choose a leader that has the character, courage, and the talent balance to propel the company forward and support a culture of great leadership.

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Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

Image Sources: Lee Ellis

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4 responses to “On Leadership and Assessing Leadership Potential in Yourself and Others

  1. Great article Lee, and simply says can the candidate be tough on issues and soft on people. Learn past examples of handling critical, sensitive, immediate and significant business situations – and run from there, checking motivational fit and balance of competence and character

    Like

    • Jim – thanks for your comments. As you mention, with a healthy dose of self-awareness the other attributes of relationship management and communication style are more likely to fall into place.

      Like

      • So true ! #1 trait of leadership – self-awareness!!

        Like

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