Launching Leaders: How to spot the leader-in-hiding

Career & Education

Launching Leaders: How to spot the leader-in-hiding

with Debra Fraser

Sunday, August 26, 2018

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It's no mystery that among our nation's biggest challenges is the inability to produce and deploy a consistent cadre of leaders. Effective and inspirational leadership is in high demand for public and private vocations, in the social sphere, and even spiritual affairs. After all, if we are going somewhere, someone must lead us.

But how do people heading organisations go about discovering potential new leaders anyway? Should you look for personality, education, work ethic, passion, creativity, or charisma? What's the ideal mix of traits, given the environment and requirements?

Before the industrial revolution, this matter of identifying leaders was addressed repeatedly. Peter Drucker, known as the founder of modern management, pointed out that “productivity of work is not the responsibility of the worker but of the manager”. So, if you are a business owner, watch the day-to-day activity of your staff and look for the following clues to leadership.

Clue #1

They put integrity first, and here's what it looks like. Integrity is not an airy-fairy concept; it means the candidate has a keen sense of what's right, which is demonstrated in how s/he treats co-employees and the company's customers. S/he will naturally approach business decision-making by weighing how to do right by the customer, the employee, the company, and the community. This habit yields a consistently reliable approach and, by its very nature, engenders trust — the very thing that keeps customers loyal, and employees from leaving. This approach also encourages support from stakeholders, including those in the wider community. That's measurable value.

Clue #2

They thrive on being the one held accountable, not necessarily the one in charge. I recently performed a stay interview with one of my own staff members, asking her to describe her ideal work environment. “Do you prefer to work behind the scenes, or do you prefer to be the 'front man' who owns the success or failures of projects and initiatives?” She shook her head vigorously at the notion of being the one in front, and I appreciated her honesty and candor (by the way, she is an excellent team member and a high performer). Her response is a reminder of the innate differences in passion and desire residing in each person. Your next leader is the one who assumes responsibility whenever there's a mess so that s/he can lead the clean-up effort.

Clue #3

They place a high value on relationships. As the old adage says, “Business moves at the speed of trust”. Let's face it. customer relations, employee relations, community and general communications are all based on managing relationships. Look for the person who naturally keeps commitments to his peers, seeks for clarification and understanding when changes are rolling out, and who genuinely values the voice and experience of others.

Potential new leaders drop these hints everyday so you can minimise the guesswork in selecting them by simply paying attention. Less guesswork = less risk, which is always good for business.

Until next time, Leaders Keep Lookin' Up!

PS: In our instalment on employee engagement two weeks ago, we promised to point out the single-most important thing people in leadership positions can do to ensure they are part of the solution and not part of the problem. It has, however, been delayed. We apologise and commit to bringing it to your attention in our next issue, in two weeks' time.

Debra Fraser, MBA, is CEO of Caribbean HR Solutions and is a member of the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica, Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica, and Society of Human Resources Management. Direct comments to or

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