Picking Potential Leaders

Some notes taken from Dr. John C. Maxwell on picking potential leaders.

Those who are closest to me will determine the level of my success.

1. When looking for a leader, do I see a constructive spirit of discontent? Constructive discontent is the trait making a leader averse to average and opposed to the status quo. Potential leaders possessing constructive discontent will question existing systems and push for improvements. They perceive problems and come up with solutions. They are not afraid to step out into the unknown. They are willing to take risks, innovate, and experiment in order to find new and better ways to operate.

    1. Do they offer practical ideas? Highly original thinkers can have problems leading when they are unable to judge their ideas realistically. Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem. Potential leaders have the rare ability to translate idealistic goals into realistic and workable actions. Leaders are not frozen when obstacles disrupt the perfect plan. They have the flexibility and fortitude to account for resistance to the ideal.
  1. When they speak, who listens?  Potential leaders words carry weight. What they say is valuable and inspires action. When watching groups of people interact, in a matter of five minutes, you can pick the leader every time. When it comes time for the group to make a decision, all eyes focus upon the person with the greatest influence. The extent of a person’s influence speaks volumes about their potential in leadership. Here are seven key areas to evaluate the level of influence in a possible hire:Character — who they are.
    Relationships — who they know.
    Knowledge — what they know.
    Passion — how strongly they feel.
    Experience — where they’ve been.
    Past successes — what they’ve done.
    Ability — what they can do.
  2. Do others respect them? Respect is vital for leadership, yet it can be difficult to discern in young leaders who have not fully developed.
    R — Respects others and exhibits self-respect. Instead of asking for respect, they
    give it and earn it.”
    E — Exceeds the expectations of others. Naturally sets the bar higher than
    anybody else sets it for them.
    S — Stands firm on convictions and values.
    P — Possesses maturity well beyond their years and shows self-confidence.
    E — Experiences a healthy family life.
    C — Contributes to the success of others.
    T — Thinks ahead of others. Potential leaders are marked by their ability to
    outpace the thinking of those around them.
  3. Can they create or catch a vision?
    1. Are they able to become a part of someone else’s vision before they demand that others follow their vision? Are they willing to follow before they lead? Can they serve before they empower?
    2. Do they add value to the vision given to them? Do they have the creativity to take a vision and make it better? Rather than blindly implementing the vision of another leader, potential leaders are able to improve upon the vision and make enhancements to it.
    3. Do they show a high level of commitment to the vision? Will they pay the price to make the dream a reality?
    4. Are they passionate about the vision? Do they have a contagious passion for the vision? Are they a person with an infectious enjoyment who spreads the vision to others?
  4. Do they show a willingness to take responsibility? Avoid choosing employees who are unwilling to take ownership or averse to responsibility. It’s easier to go from failure to success than from excuses to success.
  5. Do they finish the job? If you cannot initiate, you cannot make things happen. If you cannot close, things that could happen never will. Do the jobs get completed 100%?
  6. Are they emotionally strong? No one can lead without being criticized or facing discouragement. A potential leader needs mental toughness. You want a tough-minded leader who confronts reality and pays the price of success.
  7. Do they possess strong people skills? Leaders with people skills will be more enjoyable to work with, and they will get more accomplished. Be wary of hiring a potential leader without friendliness, tact, or team spirit. Observe whether the potential leader motivates or manipulates others. Motivation is moving people for mutual advantage, and it is a necessary leadership skill.Manipulation is moving people for personal advantage.Even without experience in a leadership position, potential leaders are already exerting influence in some capacity. Are they having an impact on the lives of those nearest them? If they can lead people without having a position, they’ll do very well when they get one. If they can’t lead people without a position, giving them a title will not help. The leader makes the position; the position doesn’t make the leader.
  8. Will they lead others with a servant’s heart? Servant-leaders never pursue a mission at the expense of their people. Rather, servant-leaders earn the loyalty and best efforts of their people by serving the interests and investing in the development of those they lead. A servant-leader leads to see others succeed. Rabbi Kushner said, “The purpose of life is not to win. The purpose of life is to grow and to share. When you come to look back on all that you’ve done in life, you will get more satisfaction from the pleasure you have brought into other people’s lives than you will from the times that you outdid them and defeated them.”
  9. Can they make things happen? Some people make things happen, and others wonder what happened. Make sure a potential leader can produce.

Kansan poet Walt Mason gives expression to the value of a results-oriented producer in his poem, The Man Who Delivers the Goods.
There is a man in the world who never gets turned down,
Wherever he chances to stray.
He gets the glad hand in the populous town,
Or out where the farmers make hay;
He is greeted with pleasure on deserts of sands,
And deep in the isles of the woods;
Wherever he goes there is a welcoming hand—
He’s the man who delivers the goods.

One is too small a number to achieve greatness. To accomplish anything of significance, you must have the right people by your side. I trust these 11 questions will aid you as you pick potential leaders.

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