Finding the “Right” Leaders on Your Team


Is the person in your organization that keeps asking for the promotion, and has the drive to push their way into leadership a potential leader? Probably not. To paraphrase Oswald Sanders, “The office should seek the leader more than the leader seeks the office.” This doesn’t mean ambition is undesirable. It is; just so long as the person’s ambition for power doesn’t exceed their competence or character.

While there’s not a fail-safe criteria for selecting potential leaders, the following should be a helpful as you select the next leader for your organization.

1. What have they done with their life?
Past accomplishments are a solid indicator of future performance. What impact has the candidate had in current or past roles? What have they overcome, stuck with, or fought through? Keep in mind past experience doesn’t equal past accomplishment. Ample experience accompanied by minimal accomplishments indicates the person shouldn’t be placed in a greater role, where they’ll accomplish little.

2. Do they demonstrate leadership in their current position?
Regardless of title, true leaders begin acting as such long before they’re in leadership positions: putting in extra work; solving problems; bringing ideas; demonstrating integrity, responsibility, coachability, teamwork; and more.

3. Is anyone currently following the person?
A key aspect of leadership is influence, and whether they currently have it is a strong indicator of leadership. Do others listen to them, trust them, and aspire to be like them? Additionally, is their influence used for personal or team benefit?

4. Are they faithful in their current duties?
If not, they’ll only further abuse resources, people and opportunities once in leadership. Incidentally, failure to keep commitments — like arriving on time — is a red flag that should disqualify them from a larger role in which to demonstrate similar disrespect for others in.

5. Do they have a thirst for growth?
How do they respond to feedback? Do they enjoy training, or look at it as an interruption? Are they working on, and investing in their own growth? Frankly, you don’t have the time or energy to smack someone in the head with a bat and drag them around the bases. Nor should you have to beg or bribe someone to work on themselves. A know-it-all mindset is dangerous in any position, but it’s particularly devastating in leadership.

6. Do they possess the traits you can’t teach or change about them?
Since among other traits, you cannot teach character, drive, motivation, talent, attitude or a higher energy level, it is important that the candidate bring these to the table. Believing someone is going to magically change just because their title, office, or responsibilities change is nonsense. People like that don’t need a change of scene or position, but a change of self.

7. Do they accept responsibility for their results?
Frankly, if someone plays the blame game as a follower, they will do it as a leader. Until they develop the integrity to accept that it’s personal decisions more than outside conditions that determines success, they are unfit for leadership.

There are additional factors you could add, but these areas can help you get through the emotional sway of promoting someone because you really “like” them — or you feel you owe them a shot — and look instead at whether they are actually fit to do the job with the excellence you expect and deserve.

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Dave Anderson
Dave Anderson is President of LearnToLead, an international training and consulting organization based in the Los Angeles area. After a successful career running a large automotive group, Dave and his wife Rhonda started LearnToLead in 1999. He has spoken in seventeen countries, and gives presentations on average of 120 times per year. Dave is the author of fourteen books; Selling Above the Crowd, No-Nonsense Leadership, Up Your Business, the TKO Series, How to Deal with Difficult Customers, If You Don't Make Waves You'll Drown, How to Run Your Business by The Book, How to Lead by The Book, It's Not Rocket Science, and his latest, Unstoppable: Transforming Your Mindset to Create Change, Accelerate Results, and Be the Best at What You Do. He writes columns for multiple national magazines, and trains organizations in the corporate realm, athletics, non-profit and government. Dave is the host of the energetic and high-impact podcast, The Game Changer Life, that focuses on becoming more focused, more energetic, more effective and living The Game Changer Life. He is the co-founder of Matthew 25:35 Foundation, who brings food, clothing, housing, ministry and education to under-resourced people worldwide. Dave’s common sense, no-nonsense approach resonates well with audiences worldwide, who’ve become worn out by the burden of political correctness.