Sure, the duck that is on the curb above the rest is positioned to lead. But does that mean the others do not have what it takes?
Seldom is this mentioned in interviewing skills training but it should be…it’s worthwhile to look beyond the obvious “stand-outs” when you are searching for potential leaders. For example, a good friend and I went to pick up new puppies for our family. One alpha puppy was ecstatic to see use, climbed all over us and won our hearts immediately. The other puppies were more submissive. My friend took the alpha. I reluctantly selected one of his brothers. My friend’s dog ended up being a nightmare to train and difficult to have around kids. Our dog has been a family treasure. I learned two things that day:
- Sticking out in a crowd is not a prerequisite to success – for dogs or for leaders.
- When selecting talent, know what attributes matter most.
When hiring top talent, do not count on getting lucky. Until you really investigate (which neither of us did in selecting our first dogs), how do you know what talents rest in the group just on the level below? And don’t restrict your leader candidates by their current role in the organization. What you should care most about are leading and lagging leadership skills that would be valuable in various functions over time. For example, a customer service team leader may have just the relationship-building skills that could be developed for a sales leadership role. Or someone in operations may have the detail-orientation that could be applied well as a project leader or in finance.
Leaders – especially more self-proclaimed introverted leaders like Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffet - may not always be the most visible or obvious candidates.
Where are potential leaders lurking? You don’t know until you identify and look for the leadership attributes that matter most for your business strategy and unique corporate culture.