6 Qualities of a Leader in the Making

UPDATED: October 15, 2015
PUBLISHED: June 15, 2015

It can be hard to tell top talent from potential leaders, because people often think the two are one in the same—and that’s not always the case. Leadership is more than production. It extends beyond a corner office, to building meaningful relationships and inspiring others.

So how can managers distinguish a top producer from a promising leader? By asking these six questions:

1. Are they good listeners?

As the saying goes, you have two ears and one mouth so you can listen more than you speak. It’s true of great leaders—they listen, digest information and deliver effective feedback and results.

Take note of how they interact in meetings. Do they speak just to speak, or are they listening, engaged and responding in a clear, concise and helpful way? The loudest person in the room isn’t necessarily the best to take charge.

2. Are they open to criticism?

Someone who has the potential to lead wants to be better. They want to hear what their weaknesses are so that they can improve. They are committed to building their careers and want feedback on how they handled a phone call, how they presented something, how they ran a meeting—anything big or small. They respond well to criticism by putting a plan in place on how they will improve the next time around.

3. Are they culture champions?

Are they invested in the culture and are they championing it to other employees? Do they take initiative to help new hires get acclimated and involved?

Company founders want employees to adopt original practices and culture. People who are fully vested in the company mission make for great leaders for years to come.

4. Are they curious?

Do they ask for more resources, or more opportunities to learn? Do they bring ideas for how they can grow and continue building their skills? Do they want to learn something outside of their day-to-day routine?

Curious people want to learn and grow far past what their typical day asks for. They bring back what they learned and teach their colleagues. They also want to understand all aspects of the business, so they ask to shadow different groups, grab coffee with managers of other units or sit in their meetings.

5. Are they likable?

Employees join companies but quit managers, which is why it’s crucial for others to like being around them and want to work with them.This isn’t a popularity contest of whether or not they have a lot of friends to gossip with. This means that people want to be on the same team as them. They want to pick their brain or get their thoughts on a project they’re working on. It means people want to work with them because they are easy to get along with, and are collaborative, smart, hardworking and willing to help.

6. Are they innovative?

Are they looking at the processes and trying to find ways to streamline them? Are they listing the areas of weakness and suggesting strategies to strengthen them?

Leaders are always looking at a situation and seeing how it can be adjusted for the better. Those who say, “This is how it’s always done,” don’t become leaders. Those who step back and think about how they can make the company better and stronger do.

Find out 10 ways to be a leader—even when you aren’t in charge.

Sirmara Campbell Twohill is the chief human resources officer at LaSalle Network and has more than 15 years of experience in the staffing and recruiting industry. Sirmara has a B.A. from Columbia College Chicago.