As an organizational leader I am constantly on the lookout for other potential leaders because I know that good leadership is the key to releasing a great staff. Poor leaders disempower staff while good leaders release them and make their work a joy. Sometimes, these potential leaders are young and raw (we all were at one time) but there are still some powerful markers that indicate they have the stuff to make a good leader if mentored and coached.

The challenge is that "leaders in the raw," are just that - raw! They can look arrogant to others, impetuous at times, don't finesse their language or analysis, challenge the status quo, ask a lot of questions and can be somewhat obnoxious. That is when I perk up and think, "Maybe I have a young raw leader here." Here are some of the things I look for.

  • Self starters who figure out where they need to go and simply do it. 
  • Those who go and find resources and people who can help them get a task done. 
  • Individuals who don't complain about barriers but simply find a way to go around, over or under those barriers to achieve their goal. Rather than ask permission, they will often ask forgiveness if they run into trouble. 
  • Individuals who others seem to listen to and instinctively follow. 
  • Those who ask good and probing questions and display a high level of inquisitiveness. 
  • Individuals who regularly challenge the status quo and ask the irritating why questions.

Young, raw, inexperienced individuals who have leadership potential or wiring can often be brash, irritating and come off as arrogant. Rather than write them off as such, realize that what you may well have is a leader in the raw who is not content with the status quo. The very things that irritate you about them may well be that leadership wiring stirring in them that if channeled and mentored could result in future leadership.

It is not unusual for leaders in the raw to even clash with those who lead them precipitating some necessary "come to Jesus meetings." It is, frankly, the very fact that they are flexing their leadership wiring (even if in an undisciplined way) that causes some disruption. I did that plenty of times as a young, raw leader. Rather than simply writing them off - start a dialogue to see if what you have is a leader in the raw rather than simply an obnoxious individual. They may be future leaders in your organization! If they have that potential, start meeting with them to help them hone their skills, temper their words and impatience and coach them toward productive leadership roles.
  • Jun 08, 2011
  • Category: News
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