I was recently asked what I look for in somebody in order to recognize whether they have the leadership potential. It’s not a simple or straightforward answer. There are several things we should be looking at over time to really recognize whether somebody truly embodies leadership qualities. And if we rush to make the judgment, we can get the answer wrong.
Over the next series of posts, I’ll share what I’ve learned about discovering leadership in others. Part 1 is about recognizing whether somebody is operating with an agenda or desire.
Agenda vs. Desire
When looking within your organization for people who have the potential for leadership, you have to talk to them about their desires. There is not a true leader in this world that doesn’t have a desire to do better. It may start as a desire to better yourself so you can learn through your pain and grow. In order to see somebody’s potential to be a leader, we have to ask questions and listen deeply to see if we can hear the difference between desire and agenda. They look a lot alike. Similar to fear and respect, certain things look similar. Agenda and desire are like siblings. They look the same but are two totally different things, and a true leader should be respected, not feared, and should be led by desire, not an agenda.
I like to think that everybody inherently wants to leave the world a better place. They may not see the path to get there; they may need guidance, but the desire must be there. We are 25% about brain wiring and 75% environment, and sometimes we are misled into wanting the wrong things in life. It doesn’t take a liar to tell a lie. To some degree, we are all honest liars, and a lot of the time, we are lying to ourselves. If you aren’t honest with yourself, then what you say is discombobulated. Your values are out of whack, and you can’t really be authentic. When finding out whether somebody has the potential to be a strong leader, it all comes down to having an awareness of what is really making a person tick.
Determining if somebody is coming in with an agenda or desire isn’t something you can see right away on the surface. And it’s not to say having an agenda is a terrible thing. If it’s just about money, live that honestly. But we have to ask questions and be curious about that agenda vs. desire question to really understand whether or not somebody has the potential to become a good leader.
Understand Motive Behind the Motivation
If we hear somebody say, “I want to be a leader because I want to blow it out of the water and crush it”, it seems like an agenda- like they have something to prove. But if we stop and ask questions and don’t rush to make assumptions, we may be surprised at the answers. If they say, “You crush it by growing a team and helping them become better.” there’s potential there, and you have to make a connection and dig deeper to see what’s there. If they say something like,” I was told I couldn’t do it, and I just want to win to prove them wrong,” it’s going to go real bad unless there is a stronger desire to do real good in the world.
It doesn’t mean you aren’t on the road to turning that agenda into a true desire if you feel like you have something to prove, or if you want to be the best and make a great living and have nice things. But you have to get real with self-evaluation and self-improvement so that you can help improve the lives of others. If there is no desire to consistently work on improving yourself and those around you, so the part of the world you influence is better, you just don’t have what it takes to be a leader. But if you are invested enough to struggle well and contribute to others having an opportunity, you’re already a leader.