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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Where are the Leaders? The Everyday Leaders! – Part 2

I am sorry that some of you out there do not know of Alvin York or even Audie Murphy. Those of my generation grew up reading about them in our history books. They were leaders of the first order. Their actions inspired others around them and those that heard of them, to undertake actions that they would normally let pass. But, maybe not just let pass; they would not even consider. Look them up. Wikipedia has decent short pages on each; it doesn’t take long.

SGT Alvin C York
2LT Audie L Murphy

Let’s get back to what I started to say yesterday: skills versus talent. Skills are traits that can be taught in some fashion or another: seminars, role playing, and revolving positions come to mind as good methods of developing skills. Talent, you can not teach. You can have a hand in developing it, just don’t try to teach it. Talent is a factor of the environment where the individual develops.

How do you test for leadership? This is hard to answer. You can put candidates in situations, challenge them with tasks under some pretty difficult conditions and evaluate results. But, if you haven’t discovered the difference between skills and talent; how do you determine who passes the leadership quiz? Some need the challenge of stress, some need the challenge of thought, and still some need the challenge persistence.

Skills, especially skills honed over a sufficient period of time, will allow the trained to out perform the true leader sometimes. I have been in situations where groups have been tested, you know like in the ropes course layout; and having experienced some of these layouts many times, the answer comes too easy. This is an unfair situation to those without the experience or opportunity.

So, in the short space and time we have here; how do you test leadership. If you are a hiring manager looking for a leader for one of your subordinate units, departments or divisions; how do you go about selecting someone to fill that position? Will you settle for the best you have and try to develop over time. This is often the mistake that managers make. Even more often, they do not posses the leadership talent to do the development themselves. A bad situation all around!

Even worse, if you have to go outside the organization to find a leader; how can you tell that he or she actually posses the talent to do the job? This is a real conundrum that faces many executives today.

Think about the opportunities that will present themselves over the next two to five years. Assuming a ramp up post economic recession and the retirement of hordes of baby boomers leaving the workforce; how will management fill the coming opportunities with true leaders?

This is where we will go next.

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