7 MORE Traits of Potential Leaders

MEN-IN-BLACKLike we talked about yesterday, this list of traits isn’t meant to be an exhaustive one. It’s not meant to imply that all leaders will have every one of these. Here’s the rest of the list.

1. They offer different thoughts and ideas and are willing to advocate for those in which they believe strongly.

They’re not the type to sit in meetings day after day, nodding and smiling at everything. If they hear something that’s off, or they think of something that’s going to make the team even better, they’re going to bring it up. Again, they’ll be using that workplace savvy, so it’s unlikely they’re going to come off like that jackass who feels like he always has a better idea than everyone else in the room. Nobody likes that guy. Even that guy doesn’t like that guy, but that’s a psychology tangent for another day.

2. Their attitude doesn’t tend to make you want to karate chop them in the earlobe.

They tend to have really good attitudes. I’m not saying they’re all Stepford employees or something, but employees with great attitudes tend to viewed in a more positive light by their teammates; and let’s face it–with all else being equal, given the choice between being led by someone who’s just an all-around nice human being and being led by someone whose attitude tends to make you want to karate chop them in the earlobe, we’d all likely choose the former over the latter.

3. They get antsy.

They’re restless in a good way. Even when they’re sitting still, their minds are probably going. They think about how this or that could be better and what they could do to help it get there. They envision what things could be and what it would take make those things a reality.

4. They’re already leading, whether they’re “formally” a manager or not.  

We’ve just thought about this recently here, but it bears repeating. If you’re an organization or manager on the lookout for young leadership talent, watch for young pros who are already leading, whether it’s people or projects. But here’s the thing–you can’t limit it to just that stuff that you might traditionally think of as “leading.” (I’m doing big air quotes here.)

What I mean is that leading, especially informal leading, is going to look different from person to person. It’s a bit like creativity in that regard; it’s not a one-size-fits-all thing. Not all leadership shows up in the form of someone calling an impromptu team meeting, painting his face blue, galloping around the workspace on a rented pack mule whilst wearing a rented kilt and toga, and making a motivational speech.

It can take all sorts of forms. It can be someone that’s always going out of his or her way to help others. It can be that person who has a wealth of knowledge and goes out of his or her way to share it. Or they do those little things to encourage folks they can tell are down. Or maybe it is that bigger, more overt leadership-type stuff, and that’s fine too. Just know it’s not always that.

5. They display vulnerability. 

They’re imperfect, and they’re OK with that. They’re quick to admit mistakes and offer apologies when necessary, and encourage that same behavior in others. In other words, they’re humans.

6. They actually want to be developed.

Now most folks are smart enough to act like they want to be coached or developed, but when it comes down to it, few actually seek it out and embrace it. They’d just as soon be left alone. They’re content. The leaders we’re talking about, however, have a desire to grow as individuals and leaders so that they can serve their teammates and the organization. Consequently, they seek out development opportunities, whatever that might look like.

7. They know when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, and when to put the freaking cards down and make something happen.

The offer insight and enter into healthy conflict around ideas; but aren’t so arrogant as to think they’re always going to have the best idea, or that they’re smarter than everyone in the room. The commit to team direction, regardless of whether their idea is used or not.

What would you add to the list? What traits do you look for in potential leaders? What attributes are important to you?

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