I’m consulting for a mid-size business that has grown 60% in the last year and a half. During that time they’ve opened 2 additional plants to able to handle the demand, and hired a bunch of people to carry out the work. They’re in a growth spurt with growth challenges, and they have to make decisions about who to put in leadership positions as the company keeps growing.
In one of my conversations with the main leadership team, they mentioned certain people (who are insiders) they would like to offer leadership positions to. During their evaluations, and asking around with colleagues, one thing that came up is that one particulare person is a bad listener; it was unanimous across the board!
He’s loyal, hard working and is competent at the job; but he listens when he wansts to, or it suits him. I told the leadership team that this person has many things going for him, but the listening part holds him back and he must be trained on it. Why?
Leaders create more leaders
Good leadership potential might not look like bad leadership. Someone who’s hard working, loyal and competent must have leadership potential, right? Yes, and no. A litmus test for me when evaluating leadership potential is simple: their ability to create more leaders.
Thinking about leadership potential this way forces you to think about the long-term; not just the short-term impact of your decision.
Bad leadership exists in companies of all sizes, and it isn’t hard to spot. To me, you’re not a leader if you want to keep people dependent on you. You’re a bottleneck to growth, both your own and others. And you’re sending a signal that you’re not open to learning when you don’t listen. Thus, when you think about giving someone more leadership responsibilities, for example a General Manager; don’t just look at their ability to get the job done. Look at their ability to create more leaders!
A person’s ability to create more leaders hinges on trust, which is driven by empathy, authenticity and logic; the main drivers of trust. To gain trust, he / she gives trust, and a leader that creates more leaders listens more than he speaks. To create more leaders, you have to switch to a coaching and mentoring style of leadership instead of the more traditional command and control; this starts with listening.
Trust, respect and influence are the fundamentals of great leadership. Want to have respect, give respect. Want to have influence, give influence. Want to gain trust, give trust.
To finish, here are the 3 Truths about Leadership:
- Leadership isn’t about gaining power. It’s about empowering others.
- Great leaders succeed because they bring out the greatness in others.
- You don’t have to be great to serve but you have to serve to be a great leader.
A leader isn’t someone who is followed, but who can also follow and help shape the next leaders.
Bottom line: When you talk about a leader, show me the people they’ve made better; show me who they’ve unleashed. They achieve this through influence, not mandates. And, a leader’s ability to influence starts with listening; listening is a superpower, and you can always listen better.