Identifying Leadership Material

02 Aug by Alicia Vroegop


How do I know if I’ve got what it takes to be a great leader?  

How do you identify the future leaders within your team?  

In our roles as business partners and recruiters we have the privilege of continually being exposed to some outstanding leaders, both as clients and candidates.  Our view is unique, because we continue the conversation with both, and we are able to see the resulting performance of the good, the average and the shocking...

So what is the magic that makes one leader more effective than another?

We have identified four common themes in outstanding leaders - across the breadth and depth of an organisation.  So whether it be sales, operations, finance or any other leadership role - these are the stand-out qualities we believe will set a good leader apart. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but sharing these insights may help you identify the areas you personally want to focus on, or to identify the future leaders of your team.


Leaders make it happen

Successful leaders embrace and understand the vision of the company and how their team contributes to bringing that vision to reality.  These people bring a positive energy to their roles, and are able to communicate and inspire their teams to do the same. These leaders have a track record of delivering what they were hired to do in a way that has lasting results.  They focus on solutions rather than problems, and where there are challenges - they face up to them, becoming excellent negotiators among peers and managers in accessing the resources required to achieve the common goal. Needless to say, their communication skills are savvy, cogent, and timely.

Dollars and sense

Commercially and financially astute

These leaders are commercially astute – they understand both the inner workings as well as the broader context their company is operating in. They are watchful and learned when it comes to industry knowledge, wider business communities and the economy. Financial knowledge and fiscal responsibility are increasingly important. Good leaders are finely tuned in to how they and their team contribute to increased profit margin, but also what factors contribute or detract from that success.  They are well researched, making decisions on facts, figures and understanding rather than what’s trending in management circles. As candidates, these people are able to produce meaningful and accurate revenue, margin or cost figures off the tops of their heads, because it is one of the driving success factors for their KPI’s.  

High EQ

Reflective and self-aware

It is well-known now that high EQ rather than high IQ is a key factor in outstanding leaders. They are able to articulate how they have made a difference to the bottom line in their previous role. They discuss the macro and micro factors that lead to success, (leaving ego out of it) and within this, is the ability to make mistakes, take responsibility for them, and apply the lessons.  People with high EQ can read a room, read a reaction, and respond accordingly - they are not tone deaf. These leaders manage their emotions, social interactions and personal decisions with a sense of responsibility and understanding that those without seem challenged to manage.   

No Ego

The team succeeds together

When good leaders speak of their successes, without exception they genuinely celebrate the team effort.  They talk fondly of the people who’ve stepped up, stepped out of their comfort zones, overcome challenges or tried really hard to build extra skills.  For these leaders, the wins are shared, and they create high-performing teams, by developing a positive and supportive working culture. As a result, they enjoy a high level of discretionary effort from their teams.  There is no room for ego, they aren’t threatened by talent - rather they are actively encouraging and developing those with talent as successors. Leading by example, with trust and empathy, whilst being focused on the goals of the business is a strong trait.  Additionally - they hold themselves and others to the same level of accountability.  

The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That's the day we truly grow up.

So are leaders born or made?

A bit of both really.  Leadership is something we believe everyone is capable of.  Whilst there may be some traits that come naturally - that we are just born with, but there is an opportunity also to work on the ones that don’t.  After all, a good leader knows their strengths and weaknesses, and is motivated towards personal development.