How often do you hear the words “leader” or “leadership?” You hear these words in the political arena, the business world, and in any number of other settings! In fact, in almost any role, you can be a leader – but more about that in future articles. In this first article in our leadership series, we’ll explore leadership potential within an organization.
Common Organizational Leadership Terms
Sometimes leadership is associated with a person’s position in an organization. For example, a CEO or Department Chair might introduce you to a new team member by saying something like, “This is Katherine. She’s part of our leadership team!”
An organizational leadership term that became popular in the 1980s and 1990s is “thought leaders.” Wikepedia describes a thought leader as “an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.” Thought leaders create “followers.” They often write inspirational articles or books and/or become sought-after speakers for webinars and conferences.
An organizational style of leadership was coined by Robert Greenleaf in the phrase, “servant leadership,” in the early 1970s. Believing that both organizations and individuals could be servant leaders, Greenleaf had great faith that servant-leader organizations could change the world. In our local community, Leadership Metro Richmond (LMR) trains its graduates to raise their capacity to serve the Richmond community as individuals and within their respective workplaces through the servant-leadership model.
Organizations often identify certain people whom they believe to have “leadership potential” or who are “emerging leaders.” Those individuals are often singled out for special training, leadership coaching, etc. As leadership coaches, we not only coach individuals who are leaders, but individuals who want to be leaders – people who have leadership potential.
The Top Four Things Organizational Leaders Do
Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner (The Leadership Challenge) and Dennis Kinlaw (Coaching for Commitment) are among my favorite leadership authors. From their combined research, I’ve narrowed down the top four things that I believe leaders do:
1. Inspire a Shared Vision
In The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner include “Inspiring a Shared Vision” as one of five key things that effective leaders do. This process involves painting a picture of where the organization is heading, as well as getting followers committed to that “future state.”
In Coaching for Commitment, Dennis Kinlaw cites research indicating that “superior leaders create expectations for significant and lasting achievement.” That future-oriented vision tends to tie together every person’s role and associates even menial tasks with valued goals.
2. Be a Role Model
Kouzes and Posner call this “Modeling the Way.” This includes setting an example, as well as planning small wins along the path to longer-term goals.
Kinlaw described this as “Leading by Example.” People who lead by example have high integrity and a strong work ethic. Leaders set the highest expectations for themselves.
3. Share the Limelight
This process includes acknowledging individuals and teams that deserve credit for organizational success. People associated with superior leaders feel as successful as their leaders do.
4. Strengthen Others
Kouzes and Posner include this attribute as a component of an overall concept called “Enabling Others to Act.” Leaders empower followers to make decisions and take risks.
Kinlaw’s research found that effective leaders help people gain new competencies, overcome obstacles, and be resilient. Resilient people don’t dwell on failure and disappointment, but bounce back fairly quickly.
Workplace Personality Traits of Individuals with Leadership Potential
An employment-oriented personality assessment such as the Workplace Big Five can help determine a current employee’s or job candidate’s leadership potential by matching the individual’s workplace personality traits against the top four things that organizational leaders do.
Let’s take a look again at the things that organizational leaders do. The Center for Applied Cognitive Studies has determined that workplace personality traits that are associated with these things are critical in the selection process of potential organizational leaders.
As you look at the following list of things that leaders do and the associated personality traits, think about a leader whom you admire in your current organization (or a previous workplace). Does that individual exhibit these personality traits?
1. Individuals who can Establish a Shared Vision have these personality traits:
- Comfort with Complexity and Ambiguity
- Comfort with Change
2. Individuals who can Be a Role Model have these personality traits:
- High Integrity
- Hard Worker
- Willingness to Take Risks
3. Individuals who Share the Limelight have these personality traits:
- Lift Others Up
4. Individuals who Strengthen Others have these personality traits:
- Willingness to Empower Others
- Willingness to Share Own Expertise and Advice
- Optimism About Others’ Ability to Recover from Setbacks
How Do You Rate Yourself for Workplace Leadership Potential?
Now that we’ve listed 15 personality traits of employees with leadership potential, take a look at each of these traits. Think about how many of them line up with how you see yourself. To do a “self-rating,” either put a check mark beside the ones that you think describe YOU or use a 5-point scale (with “1” being Low and “5” being High) for each trait.
What’s your score?
Do you feel that you are fairly strong on 10 – 15 of these 15 workplace personality traits? If so, you may well have great leadership potential. You may even already be a workplace leader or an emerging leader in your workplace!
If you feel that you fall short on many of these personality traits and you want to be an organizational leader, there is some good news: Some of these traits can be developed over time!
On the other hand, research shows that some of these traits are very difficult to “improve” through training, coaching, and practice. They’re just not who you are and that’s ok!
Everyone can’t be an organizational leader! However, everyone can be a key contributor at work. Many others can do well in supervisory or management roles without having a “leader” profile. Managing and leading are not the same thing!
Outside the work world, many people can be effective leaders without all the personality traits we have listed. We’ll talk more about this in future articles.
If you think that many of these workplace personality traits describe you quite well, perhaps there is a leadership position in your future! And, if you are interviewing for leadership positions, it may be wise to mention those traits during the selection process!
What’s Next in Our Leadership Series?
Future articles will explore how to develop and coach leaders, as well as how early in life the leadership development process should begin. We’ll even give you some of our ideas on how parents, college students, entrepreneurs and others can be leaders. So stay tuned!
If you would like to explore if leadership, conflict, or ADHD coaching or our 360 Feedback, personality, career, or conflict assessments would help you meet your goals, please contact us for a free complimentary session.