Skillsoft Blog

How to spot potential leaders

By Les
McKeown

We’re
pleased to bring you a guest post from Les
McKeown
, President & CEO of Predictable Success. In this role, he advises
CEOs and senior leaders of organizations on how to achieve scalable,
sustainable growth and speaks to Fortune 500 companies about his breakthrough
strategies.

As a leader, one of your key roles is succession planning and
developing bench strength – in other words, to identify and encourage potential
future leaders.

For me, the most telling environment in which to assess leadership
potential is that old stand-by, the management meeting. Precisely because it is
often routine, prosaic, even boring, the contrast between those who have
leadership potential and those who don’t is often stark. Here are some of the
most obvious contrasts:

1. Screens.

Managers look at screens, leaders engage with people. If you want
to be taken seriously as a leader, put the screens away when you’re in a
meeting. Look at the people in the room, not at your laptop. Talk to them.
Focus on them – not at your handheld or your smartphone.

Conversely, if you want to be thought of as a manager rather than
a leader, fire up your laptop and start pecking at it during every meeting you
attend. Or grab your phone every 7 minutes and stare intently at it. Make clear
that the day-to-day tactical detail of your job is way more important to you
than the strategic issues everyone else is there to discuss.

2. Sports.

Imagine you actually achieve your heart’s desire and hit the big
time in your favorite sport – NFL, NHL, NBA, English Soccer League, Bundesliga
– whatever works for you. You turn up in the locker room on day one and… you
start telling everybody how kaizen, Six Sigma, employee orientation or the five
p’s of marketing are really what your team-mates need to start thinking about –
not how to be a great player and win games.

That’s precisely how you sound when you start making sports
analogies every time you get together with your colleagues at work. Yes, there
are a few points at which business and sports intersect, but they are fewer
than you think, and by constantly pulling out a sports analogy every time a
business discussion arises, you simply make it clear that you’d rather be there
than here.


3. Autopsies.

Yes, it went wrong. Yes, it was Jane’s fault. Leaders don’t whine
– let it go.

4. Affectation.

‘Check me out’ is fine, ‘LOOK AT ME!!!’ isn’t. If you choose to
call attention to yourself by the use over-studied body language, convoluted
verbal gymnastics or outré clothing, don’t be surprised to find you’re
consistently overlooked for leadership positions – those already in leadership
positions know that if you’re that insecure, leadership will chew you up and
spit you out.

5. Composure.

It’s only eleven minutes in to this meeting and you’re jiggling
your leg under the table like you need a fix of something white and powdery –
and you want me to trust you in a leadership position? I don’t think so.

If you’re gnawing at your nails like Armageddon is approaching,
chomping through every candy at the table like it’s your last, or tearing the
label off your water bottle like you’re disarming an explosive device then I’m
not 100% sure I want to hand you the delicate controls of my business. True
leaders are too intensely focused to get agitated, too engaged to be nervous,
and too invested to be bored.

Les McKeown was the April speaker in the Skillsoft Conversations in Leadership Series. 

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