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How to Recognize a Leader

Make sure you don't focus so much on the appearance of leadership that you miss the true leaders in your company. These are some qualities to look for in finding a good leader.
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It is important to recognize the natural leaders in your company as well as those who could become great company leaders if they had a little training. People naturally follow someone. This is evident through many things in life from the stock market to fashion. You want to make sure your employees are following the right people. Make sure you don't focus so much on the appearance of leadership that you miss the true leaders in your company. These are some qualities to look for in finding a good leader. Remember that every company and situation may be different, but the following qualities are generally adaptable to many situations.

Performance is an important characteristic of leaders. Leaders are role models who excel. This means, if you don't want the rest of your employees doing what this guy is doing, don't give him a leadership position. Look for those who have the highest level of output and the greatest results. Performance is not the only thing you should look for in a leader, but it is a good starting point. If you find someone who has great performance in his or her job responsibilities, but is unable to think independently or create a rapport with other employees, then leadership might not be the best fit for this individual. When I look at company reviews on Glassdoor, I often find that many of the complaints from employees indicate that their managers lack exceptional job skills and performance. Keep an eye on your top performers, but don't use this as your only metric in finding talented leaders.

Vision of the company
Remember when you took that exam in high school or college and you knew what to do to solve a specific problem, but you didn't know why you were doing it. Perhaps you got the multiple choice question right, but you missed the essay question on the same topic. When you are looking for a leader, you are not looking for the employee who can tell you all the answers in the employee hand book. You want the leader who grasps a vision of the business concept. Leaders understand the conceptual questions of the business not just the "plug and chug" questions. You should look for someone who does not need to be spoon fed the answer to every question. The leaders you select should be able to answer many questions on their own because they understand the vision. They understand where they need to get to and are able to figure out the path that leads to the vision on their own.

Intelligence ties into the last point mentioned. You should look for someone who can see the vision of the company and make decisions on their own. However, you want to ensure these decisions are analyzed and will go in the right direction the company should follow. In short, you want a problem solver. Finding people who are intelligent requires you to know your employees. Perhaps one of your employees has made positive changes that have affected the company as a whole or has improved a department. Or perhaps she may be making small changes in the way she works on her own that has made a positive impact on her personal work. Make sure your employees are connected with each other in a manner that will allow supervisors to recognize changes that can improve the overall performance of individual employees and/or the company. Intelligent leaders are dynamic.

Charisma is very important for leaders. This goes back to what we were talking about earlier with the ability for people to follow leaders. People's judgment is often blurred by something called "the halo effect" which is different than charisma. "The halo effect" is a type of bias that occurs when one judges something to meet certain benchmarks based on criteria that does not necessarily have an effect on the thing itself. For example, you may see someone who is tall and has a great smile and think, "he must be a great leader." Charisma runs deeper. When you notice an employee who is confident with his or her self, lives with purpose and is able to be persuasive, you may have found the charismatic characteristics you are looking for in a leader.

Good Judgment
Good judgment is a hard characteristic to discern. This is because you may be unsure about how one exercises their judgment until they are put into a position where it is required. With judgment, you are given a problem where there is no answer in the handbook, and you must use your wisdom to solve the problem. It is important that you learn to recognize people with good judgment. You don't want a leader who thinks the ship is sinking because there is a leak in a pipe and there is no answer found in the manual. You want someone who is able to realize that they can creatively repair the pipe and continue their journey.

Well Connected
There is a reason why we don't work in complete and utter solitude. Knowing and working with other people is very beneficial. Leaders should be familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of the people they lead. When you are looking for leaders, look for people are connected and have a great rapport with others.

Attitude of Service and Sacrifice
When you notice someone who likes to take credit for their actions and "toot their own horn" this may not be the best leader. There are decisions that must be made which are best for the company, but may not be popular. If you find that a person is motivated by recognition and praise, it may lead the person to make decisions which make him look better rather than decisions that are best for the company. Some of the world's best leaders have become great because of what they give and what they give up. It is much easier to follow someone when you know they are not just in it for themselves, but are concerned about the welfare of others and the company.