If the building was on fire and a few people stood up and said “Follow Me” and offered to lead you out of the burning office, who would you follow? That’s your natural leader. Leaders can be recognized by their innate attributes. They probably demonstrated natural leadership skills at a young age. They were the captains of the teams in their gym classes. They volunteered to do the ‘dirty’ jobs no one else in the class wanted to do. By teenage years, they were president of the Student Council, Editor of the school’s year book and as young adults they were most likely championing various social or political movements.
Even in entry level positions, leaders demonstrate certain characteristics. Co-workers gravitate to the leaders. You’ll find a natural leader coaching even more senior employees and muddling through challenging tasks that others weren’t able to do. If an astute manager is watching, she can identify those natural attributes early on and invest in such an employee. Developing existing staff to assume future leadership roles can be a much more effective and less costly plan then recruiting known leaders from the competition.
In contrast, when we have an employee who has demonstrated content expertise, dedication, commitment and is likeable, we often promote them in to leadership roles as a natural progression. Those talented, dedicated employees often fail in these elevated roles as they do not possess innate leadership skills. Mapping the career path of a highly valuable employee who is not a leader is as challenging as finding the leaders. But rewarding followers with promotions in leadership roles is a recipe for disaster for employee and the company.
The most valuable skill you can develop towards your own personal success in management is to learn to identify leadership resources. Hire them; train them; invest time in their development; challenge them and then let them lead.