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Norm Bilsbury, Ph.D. | Champaign, IL



Who Are Your Best Leaders?

Answering this question is one of the most critical challenges a business executive/owner faces.


The demands of any successful business cannot be juggled by any one superstar. If future leaders are not identified, developed, and trained, the pipelines of critical activity will ultimately become bottlenecked. Scalability, capacity, throughput, quality and cashflow will all be lost. Your neglected leadership talent pipeline becomes an unhealthy artery filled with plaque and your business will undoubtedly have a coronary event.

With that cheery picture now painted, back to our question - who are your best leaders?

Typically owners/executives often tell me this is prone to change over time, but it often boils down to a limited selection pool. This is because there are many people who are skilled as individual contributors in a specific role. However for someone to be able to make the jump from a team member to a team leader, there are four baseline factors to consider:

  • Integrity
  • Timeliness
  • Responsibility
  • Trusworthy

As you know, this minimal list of attributes has a pretty narrowing effect. However if the above traits do exist in any individuals, how do you choose who might be the better leader?

Ongoing Debate

There is an ongoing debate by researchers, but one answer is self-awareness.

Self-awareness is defined as one’s ability to accurately see one’s self the way others see them. This trait is important because it indicates a high degree of emotional intelligence. The more self-aware an individual is, the more accurately they will be able to assess interactions with the team.

If we think about this in its extremes it begins to make sense. For example, we all know how difficult it can be to coach individuals who think too highly of themselves. These types of individuals typically think they are better than they really are, can be difficult to interact with, and often fail to recognize or take responsibility for their faults. Thus, our first task in developing these types of individuals is to save them from themselves, and protect others from them.

Conversely, at the other end of the spectrum we have people who do not see the value in their contributions. Low self-worth is often seen in individuals who undervalue their performance or fail to recognize their level of contribution. When individuals are unable to speak-up or assert themselves in a healthy way, they will suffer, the team will suffer, and your business will suffer. So we have to start by building these individuals up.

Ultimately, the key to finding the right individuals for leadership roles is to strike a balance. The above baseline behaviors must be present or someone has to be on a clear journey towards achieving them. Once that marker is achieved, we need to understand their people skills. While there are other metrics for that, a baseline factor in understanding an individual's people skills is no doubt self-awareness.

Questions for reflection:

  • What does my leadership talent pipeline look like?
  • What would happen to my business if some of my best leaders left?
  • Who might I be overlooking?
  • What baseline leadership traits do you regularly communicate must be observed for someone to earn a leadership position?
  • Are these baseline traits known?

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