Great ideas are the currency in today’s competitive business landscape. But even great ideas aren’t enough to distinguish great leaders.
Despite what we learned in school, Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb. What’s more, Alexander Graham Bell didn’t invent the telephone and Galileo didn’t invent the telescope.
“ Leaders know how to get others to buy into their vision and follow the path they’ve forged.”
In any successful business, the most effective leaders have the same ability. They know how to get others to buy into their vision and follow the path they’ve forged. That’s why, if you’re hiring for leadership, you need to look deeper into a candidate’s background than what typically appears on a resume.
Superstars or coaches?
Resumes usually include two types of accomplishments: those achieved individually and those requiring either coworkers or customers – or both – to get on board and execute on a plan. Having hired and managed people for more than three decades, I prefer the person who can marshal the support necessary to turn ideas into action.
Sure, hiring is an inexact science, and you don’t really know how people will handle the rigors of a demanding new job. But if you’re looking for a predictor of future performance, look at how the candidate performed when a project required them to gain the support of others.
“ The best coaches know that if they help others thrive, they’ll have a better chance of building a winning culture.”
The best coaches know that if they help others thrive, they’ll have a better chance of building a winning culture. That’s key because they need buy-in from every player on the roster – the stars and the role players – to build a championship team. The most innovative game plan is useless if they lack the players who can execute it.
Three keys to leadership
So how do great leaders do it? What are their secrets to attracting committed followers?
They’re great anticipators.
This skill is especially important at large organizations, where there are multiple stakeholders involved in almost any project. The most successful leaders are the ones who articulate and build a case for their ideas among a group with competing interests.
They’re great communicators.
They give their teams the information they need – in the form they most appreciate – and then step aside and let them perform.
They leave their egos at the door.
Great leaders let the success of the project speak for them and their teams. When team members see that their leader is promoting the team’s success, they’re more likely to roll up their sleeves and join in.
Reading between the lines
“ Even the best idea won’t get off the ground if you’re the only person who thinks it will change the world.”
In the countries where we were expanding, the situation was different. We had no operating history or employee longevity. The local staffs were less experienced. Since the old rule book didn’t work as well, this was also where I learned important lessons about building an effective team.
A mentor of mine taught me to read between the lines of a resume to determine whether a manager would thrive in a more senior role. My mentor had no problem promoting someone with far less experience if he felt the person had the ability to attract followers.
By challenging tradition and culture, he built a successful team. Under his leadership, we accelerated our growth and improved our quality and efficiency, ultimately leading to significant top- and bottom-line results. I was amazed how the less-experienced people he promoted always rose to the occasion.
Remember, even the best idea won’t get off the ground if you’re the only person who thinks it will change the world.
Just ask the actual inventors of the light bulb, telephone and telescope. Now what were those guys’ names?
This article first appeared on LinkedIn.
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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.