THURSDAY THOUGHTS! - How can you spot a future leader?

Posted by | October 04, 2012 | Thursday Thoughts | No Comments

I’ve often been asked this question.  It’s linked to spotting potential and it seems that others think I have a knack for tapping into strengths and helping them to bloom.  Who am I to disagree?  So other than the obvious list of skills and competencies leaders have to have, ie talent, education, presence, I also list character and humility.  This has produced several raised eyebrows in the past but I hold firm to my list – it hasn’t let me down yet!  I am a firm believer that leadership is first about character, THEN about skills.  The former is something deep inside us, the latter is something you can acquire along the way.  Equally, you can’t talk your way into humility, it’s only ever practiced.    Humility demonstrates real strength (in my eyes).  Arrogant leaders might well succeed, but they will never be successful because humility is much more about the “how” of doing things.  Its “how” you go about things that makes you memorable, makes others want to follow and aspire to you, and which leaves a lasting impression on them.

So, this week, think hard about:

“How would you spot a future leader?”

This simple, yet instantly recognisable list, will help you spot them 🙂


It’s not exhaustive of course and the skills element is very important indeed.  But humility is essential because it allows leaders to ask, “How can I help?”  C. S. Lewis once said:  “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”

What strengths do you see in humility and how does arrogance hinder or destroy leadership?  Looking forward to the answers on this one as everyone I’ve met has a view and opinion on leadership, good and bad.

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Sharon Davidson
Organisational development professional specialising in personal, team and whole organisation improvement. Full range of OD tools and techniques available including: Belbin team role analysis; learning style inventories; 360 degree feedback; cultural assessments; personality psychometrics; strategic planning and workshop facilitation. (This list is not exhaustive!)

Improvement is everyone's concern: +44 1550 720902 will start that process today.

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  • Alison says:

    The best leaders inspire people to move in the right direction, often without them ever really being aware they’ve been led. A recent course taught me the different styles of leadership, from dicatorial style to enablng style, and humility is obviously lacking in the former and present in the latter. I see humilty as being a strength, as it allows a leader to ask their team to provide the answers and opinions, and it allows them to change their own opinion in the face of good evidence, which are both really positive. The downside can be that people may not perceive that this is a ‘strong’ leadership style, especially if they prefer the ‘dictatorial’ style themselves.

    In my first proper job I worked for a great Medical Director, who was insprirational and very generous with his leadership. He didn’t work to heirarchy and often came directly to the staff he wanted to do work for him (so no Chinese whispers of tasks trickling down the chain of command). He put forward ideas of what he wanted, but in a way that also allowed personal input, and respected and encouraged people to explore their own ideas. I particularlty remember that on one occasion he talked me into giving a presentation at a national conference on work I’d done for him, despite being terrified of public speaking. In the end it really helped me get over that fear, and in hindsight it was a lovely thing for him to allow me (a lowly analyst) to take credit for the work he had lead, when so many other directors at the same conference preseneted their own research rather than giving the opportunity to their staff.

  • Aresko says:

    I love hearing stories like this Alison. It’s just the sort of thing staff remember and inspire them to mimic themselves.

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