Discovering the Leaders on Your Staff - Page 1

Jul 27, 2007

Katherine Spencer Lee

Some people just have a natural ability to lead. They speak, and people take notice. When you spot these employees, it’s easy to recognize management potential.

But individuals who fit this mold are few and far between. In most cases, it’s not readily apparent whether a person is destined for a leadership role. So, how can you identify IT professionals who might make good leaders with the right training? And what can you do to bring out their potential?

Think first about the qualities that make up a successful manager:

  • The best leaders don’t simply maintain order they challenge the process, change things and shake up the organization when necessary.
  • They recognize that good ideas can come from anyone on the team.
  • True leaders not only take initiative but also display enough conviction with their proposals that others want to support them.
  • They set the example by being enthusiastic about their own work.

    Recognize the difference, too, between employees who make unique suggestions just for the sake of gaining attention and those who recommend and take calculated risks based on well-thought-out strategies. For example, rather than simply mentioning the idea of switching an entire department from desktop systems to laptops, true leaders will conduct research and make a persuasive case for the transition, noting the specific benefits to employees and the company.

    These individuals may be subtle in their actions, moving quietly ahead with plans or resolving problems without self-promotion. So make sure you’re not zeroing in only on people who generate the most noise in your group.

    Strong candidates should also demonstrate they’re comfortable interacting with staff at any level and help to bring out the best in those around them. You may notice they treat the intern who’s just joined your group with the same respect as you and other executives, for instance. They might also encourage colleagues to move forward with ideas and provide ongoing motivation and support.

    Preparing Future Leaders

    Soft skills are essential. Someone may be an expert with IT issues but lack the ability to share that expertise effectively with diverse groups. You want to identify individuals whose written and verbal communication skills shine.

    Once you’ve identified staff members with leadership potential, the real work begins. To help with their professional development, consider assigning them mentors. Pairing employees with experienced supervisors can help promising candidates gain impartial career advice and enhance their skills and institutional knowledge so they’re better prepared for leadership roles.

    Just be sure you’re selecting the right people to serve as mentors. They must be committed to assisting potential leaders over the long term and have the experience and communication skills to offer meaningful insight.

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