Selecting Your Leaders
The most critical decision we make is selecting the leaders who will be on our team. When looking for leaders, there are two characteristics found in people who work for us. They either think and act like managers or they think and act like leaders. Leaders think about the future and then work backward to the present as they decide what to do. They might say, "In the future we will need to do that, so we'd better begin with this today." They focus on the big picture. They like innovative thinking and are often full of big ideas. They are excited by change and move quickly once they have identified new opportunities. Leaders are willing to take risks. They are people and idea-centered; and while they hope people like what they do, they don't have to have personal approval to do their jobs.
Contrast this with a managerial attitude. Managers conceptualize plans by working from the past to the present. They might say things like, "This is how we've always done it." They have a micro-perspective of situations and examine them as snapshots. They favor routine thinking and are protectors of the status quo. Unlike leaders, they emphasize "how and when" rather than "what and why." Managers are controlling and directing, and they are threatened by change. When it occurs, they move slowly, identifying obstacles in their way. They avoid risks, and their actions are limited to available resources. They are plan and system-centered, and they very much need the approval of those they work with and for.
When I refer to manager, I am not saying the word as a job title. People who have the job title of manager can act like leaders or managers. The biggest difference is that managers get the most out of themselves; leaders get the most out of others. That's why good leaders are so critical. They will permeate every level of an organization. Whenever possible we should hire people with leadership characteristics.
In my book, Who's Holding Your Ladder?: Selecting Your Leaders - Leadership's Most Critical Decision, I discuss the five key qualities that leaders (or ladder holders) must have:
- Strong: They can handle instruction and correction.
- Attentive: They pay attention and learn quickly.
- Faithful: They believe in their leaders.
- Firm: Manipulative people cannot blow them about.
- Loyal: They don't question their leaders' motivations just because they don't like their methods.
These qualities are important because selected leaders will be holding the ladder for other leaders. If they aren't quality people who are good at what they do, the ladder will be shaking in the wind. We will never be able to climb to the top. But if they are superior ladder holders, we won't fear climbing to the top and standing on the highest rung because we know they will keep the ladder from shaking.
Superior leaders don't have to be reminded constantly. They are intentional in their approach to their work. They are faithful to the vision of the organization, and they are not looking around to see if there is there is anything better out there. They are building the organization rather than building their resumes. But to get that kind of reliable performance, leaders must get training. Few people have ladder holders who are qualified and trained. In most organizations, we have a lot of followers and a few leaders. That is why it is important to mentor and to develop the potential of future leaders.
(Taken in part from: What's Shakin' Your Ladder? by Dr. Sam Chand)