Who Will Make the Better Leader – Carla or Sue?

IT’S COMMON to label high achievers as your high potential leaders. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple: If people perform well, that really only shows that they’re well suited to their jobs.

 Let’s Look at Two Examples:

  • Carla, the R&D expert, whose research led to some potential breakthroughs in gene therapy, is certainly a great scientist. Her co-workers admire the work she does, and it’s very likely she’ll be promoted because of her technical skills. But, she doesn’t share her knowledge, and doesn’t help others understand her methods.
  • Sam in marketing is a good employee whose work is above average but not necessarily extraordinary.
    However, what does stand out is that he has forged great relationships with people from all parts of the company. Because of this, whenever changes occur, managers count on him to see the benefits and motivate his colleagues to accept them.

Who Would You Pick?

Chances are that Sam is a more promising leader than Carla. You won’t know, though, until you look deeper and observe many more behaviors. What’s clear from the start is that job performance, by itself, is not a reliable indicator. It’s more than doing a good job; it’s personal attributes and behaviors that high potentials bring to the table.

However, spotting people with leadership potential is not always easy. How do certain people show they have what it takes to lead others?

Four Leadership Qualities High Potentials Bring to the Table

  1.  They Embrace Change– they don’t accept the status quo and focus on getting better.
  • Who is the first person in a group to get the action started?
  • Who always thinks of new and practical ideas and suggestions?
  • Who always looks for bigger assignments and opportunities to learn new skills?
  1.  They Know Themselves –they’re aware of strengths, weaknesses, how they come across to others.
  • Who asks for feedback and acts constructively to make improvements?
  • Who listens to others input without trying to justify or getting defensive?
  • Who senses the impact their behavior has on others and makes adjustments accordingly?
  1.  They Have High Integrity– they are credible. People trust what they say and what they do.
  • Who shares mistakes and bad news openly and honestly?
  • Who does the “right” thing despite pressure to do otherwise?
  • Who openly communicates with everyone not just special groups?
  1. They Are “People” people–they are genuinely concerned about the welfare of their people.
  • Who nurtures talent in others?
  • Who is quick to appreciate and give credit to others?
  • Who willingly shares responsibility and sets others up for success?

Smart Moves Tip:

Leaders are needed throughout a company, and it’s wise to identify those people who show promising leadership skills. High potential leaders aren’t necessarily the high performers – they may not sell the most widgets or demonstrate the greatest technical skill. High potential leaders are often the people who want more and do more. They make the company better in terms of performance and culture.

Readers, have you identified your high potential leaders? Do they bring these leadership qualities to the table? Are there other qualities, you think are important?


Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!

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  1. Some good commonality across all leaders. I tend to look at four areas to see which of the main collaboration behavior the leader should exhibit to be successful.

    Behaviors include —
    1. Partnering to produce and end result
    2. Vision of a new idea or concept
    3. Execution to get it all to work together
    4. Coaching to develop skills

    • Thanks. I spend a lot of my time in the mud and dirty details. But when I’m down in it, I sink and sometimes get stuck. I’m always thinking if either I should stay above the mud or to just eat my way out of it.

      Good mud is nutritious. But not all mud is equal.