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Qualities to Look for when Hiring for Leadership Positions

Leadership development is a natural subset of career development. If you think about it, many employees who are good at attending to their overall career development would naturally like to segue that effort into a leadership capacity. Leaders are different from mentors because they lead entire teams of employees — the work of these teams, as well as their professional development.

Being (or developing) a great leader is not a simple proposition. Every business is unique, so a leader who’s effective in one setting may prove utterly ineffective in another.

For instance, if your business is more inclusive by nature, a leader who invites input and consensus would be a very suitable fit. Similarly, a leader in your sales group may have as her top qualities charisma and an eagerness to engage with others.

Focus on developing the leadership qualities your business needs most. When you have a sense of the tailored-to-your-business leadership qualities you’d like to develop, you’re well on your way to identifying people with the greatest promise. But there are additional personal characteristics and attributes that any business should look for that are good predictors of real leadership potential. These include

  • An interest in, well, leading: It’s so obvious that it doesn’t hit some people as a “quality of leadership.” But the people you want are those who are passionate about taking on new opportunities and genuinely want to lead others. Here, you’re also looking for a person willing to accept additional time commitments and comfortable with taking charge.

  • Integrity: The last thing you want are people who’ll lead others into actions that don’t reflect a commitment to being honest and forthright. Remember: Your leaders will set the tone for others within the organization.

  • A knack for motivating others: The ability to spur others into action is a key sign of someone who can lead effectively.

  • Ability to collaborate across groups and build consensus: A person who can’t convince people to work together under his leadership won’t ever be much of a leader.

  • Excellent communication skills: As we increasingly become a service economy, it would be nice if all of a firm’s employees could be good communicators. But for leaders, it’s a must.

    Great communicators can adapt to their audience, don’t waste the other person’s time with small talk or a lengthy buildup to their point, are diplomatic with requests, use straightforward language when talking and writing, are good listeners who don’t jump to conclusions before another speaker is finished, and are always trying to improve their communication style.

  • True adaptability: Leaders are willing to change as circumstances dictate and are comfortable with feedback — both positive and negative. This includes dealing with ambiguity, a critical skill for good leaders.

  • Willingness to admit shortcomings: Real leaders are not arrogant know-it-alls. They understand where their strengths lie and where they don’t (and are comfortable relying on others to fill those gaps in skill and experience).

To help you identify potential candidates, look for outstanding performance reviews that may suggest leadership potential. It also can be helpful to ask others — managers, employees, and even vendors — for insight into what qualities may make for an effective leader in the company.

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