How To Tell If You Have New Leadership Potential

By Gerald Walsh ©

Old style leadership used to be about “command and control.” If you put your head down, did what your boss said, and didn’t ruffle any feathers, you eventually would make your way up the corporate ladder. Your best strategy was to behave according to your boss’ norms and wishes. If you did this well, you could rest easy because you knew he (it was usually a ‘he’) would look out for you. You felt comfortable putting your career in the hands of your boss.

That’s all changed.

Now, this hierarchical, top-down leadership style is completely out of fashion. In order to succeed, you have to possess an entirely different approach to leadership – almost be a new person.

Here are some of the new leadership qualities that organizations seek these days.

How do you measure up against this list?

1. New leaders inspire others. They are passionate and committed, and work with a sense of purpose. Those around them recognize and respect these qualities and become motivated themselves to achieve at higher levels. They are facilitators not dictators.

2. New leaders possess integrity. They admit their mistakes, do not make excuses, avoid blaming others, and always take the high road in disputes.

3. New leaders are coachable. They admit they don’t know everything, recognize their own limitations, and encourage constructive feedback from others. They seek role models and mentors, are open to new ideas, and are willing to try different ways of doing things.

4. New leaders are kind people. They are effective communicators and can carry on good conversations with everyone, from the doorman to the CEO. They are respectful of others and don’t let their egos get in their way. Others enjoy being around them.

5. New leaders are self-assured. They operate with a sense of optimism, always looking for the good in people and events. They are confident in their ability to overcome problems.

6. New leaders display a high level of independence. They readily seek advice from others on important decisions but are quite comfortable making up their own mind and drawing their own conclusions.

7. New leaders have initiative. They quickly identify the things that need to be done and undertake those tasks with minimal prompting and supervision. They don’t wait to be told what to do.

8. New leaders demonstrate a high level of analytical rigour. They get to the heart of issues quickly. They are intelligent, not distracted by inconsequential issues, and make sound, well-thought-out judgments.

9. New leaders are both strategic and tactical. They always keep the big picture in mind, can spot trends, and constantly think two or three steps ahead. Yet, at the same time, they “sweat the details” and are good at execution.

10. New leaders take a balanced approach to decision-making. They don’t jump to conclusions quickly and are not impulsive. Instead, they approach problems with an open mind and consider several different perspectives before arriving at a decision.

11. New leaders like to question and challenge the way things are done. They don’t automatically accept the traditional ways of doing things. In doing so, they may seem contrarian to some people. But this is not because they are being difficult. It is because they refuse to blindly accept the norms and are assertive enough to speak up.

12. New leaders share their knowledge and enjoy helping others succeed. They are comfortable in their own skin. They understand that the more they share, the more they get back, and everyone is better off because of it.

Question: How do you measure up against these twelve traits of new leaders? Why not complete a self-assessment? And then ask your employees and peers to rate you. It will be interesting to see how they compare.


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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.