Do you know who among your staff is prime leadership material? Perhaps there is an individual who always volunteers for additional items beyond their expected work load, or can just as easily work with members outside of their own team as they can with their own. These are laudable qualities, but will promoting such a person result in a great leader?
Some think this just might be the case. Drive and social skills are a few attributes that fall under an umbrella of six predictors of effective leadership, said Kim E. Ruyle, renowned speaker, published author, and President of Inventive Talent Consulting. Ruyle spoke on the brain and its role in choosing talent in his presentation “Finding Authentic High Potential Talent in the Crowd,” hosted by the Recruitment Process Outsourcing Association.
Some believe there are six factors that help predict an effective leader. While you might not be able to suss out these qualities from a candidate right from the interview process, they provide a good guideline for performance assessment when deciding on a choice for a leadership position.
An individual with a high cognitive ability is the “price of admission” for an effective leader, opined Ruyle, noting that while it is not necessarily the most predictive of a strong leader, it is the most shared trait among leaders.
Stephen J. Zaccaro, Professor of Psychology at George Mason University, studied such traits as a factor of leadership in his 2007 American Psychologist piece “Trait-Based Perspectives of Leadership” and noted cognitive abilities as one of the foundational necessities for strong leadership.
This isn’t to say that “less-intelligent” people cannot make for good leaders. But high cognitive ability tends to indicate a greater adeptness at mental flexibility, such as reasoning and perception, and a greater ability at learning and applying new skills, such as problem solving or math. “You need intellectual horsepower to deal with job complexity,” offered Ruyle.
Drive and Ambition
“True high-potential people are motivated – they have energy, drive, and career ambition,” observed Ruyle. Sometimes this ambition and drive might be visible in an individual’s willingness to “pay the price” to achieve higher ranking roles.
One shouldn’t interpret “paying the price” negatively; it simply means the individual is willing to take the jobs no one else takes, stay after hours at the office when everyone else has gone home, and can be seen working hard around the clock, noted Ruyle. “They do whatever it takes to be successful.”
Job competence is important for any employee, but Ruyle advises we look to job experience in combination with competence in order to identify potential leaders.
“When someone has a wide range of experiences, it provides a launching pad for the future,” offered Ruyle in his presentation. “It alloys for an easier way to accelerate going forward.”
Forbes lists a few scenarios that effective leaders will do well to become familiar with, including:
- High performance environments, where each individual’s high performance is not only lauded, but essential for getting the job done.
- Turnaround operations, where the employee is tasked with taking a bad situation and saving it from total loss – or even allowing it to thrive.
- Pioneering a new product or project. Such projects are naturally fraught with uncertainties, and navigating such a launch allows a leader to learn much.
On the flip side of seeking a well experienced leader is looking for an individual who possesses the skills to do the job, but may not necessarily have the experience. Placing such individuals in a leadership position can lead to innovation through necessity, says Gautam Mukunda, Assistant Professor in the Organizational Behavior Unit of Harvard Business School, in an interview with Harvard Business Review. Many of our great leaders, including Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill he argues, made decisions that other experienced leaders simply wouldn’t have made.
Personality and Emotional Intelligence
Even if leading a particular team, an effective leader will need to interact with nearly every department, whether working with them directly or chatting over a meeting. A poorly-liked leader will find it difficult to lead when those working with him or her can’t stand being in his or her presence.
A leader doesn’t necessarily have to go out of their way to make everyone like them, but they do need to make sure that people have a good idea of how they will react in a given scenario, noted Ruyle. This awareness needs to extend both ways: an effective leader needs to have a level of self and situational awareness so that he or she can adapt their behavior in order to improve relations with others in the work place.
“You don’t have to be Dr. Phil. But if you fail to build bridges with people – or burn them – that will come back to get you,” noted Ruyle.
Of the six elements indicative of an effective leader, learning agility is one of the most predictive, if not the most predictive, argues Ruyle. Look forward to hearing more about what learning agility means and why it helps create great leaders in a future article, and for more on the brain and how we choose talent, check out Kim Ruyle’s presentation “Finding Authentic High Potential Talent in the Crowd,” hosted by the Recruitment Process Outsourcing Association.