Vaya Insights
7 Key Characteristics For Identifying Future Leaders

7 Essential Traits for Spotting Future Leaders

Leaders come from all walks of life. Did you see Fortune’s 2017 list of the World’s Greatest Leaders? The leaders on this list are incredibly diverse, each with his or her own unique talents, experiences and characteristics.

Topping Fortune’s list is Theo Epstein, near and dear to our hearts since we’re a Chicagoland company. As the president of the Chicago Cubs, Epstein ended the string of 108 years without a World Series championship.

The list also includes Pope Francis, Jeff Bezos and many more amazing people in business, government, art, military, not-for-profits and other fields. What can we learn from them?

With such a diverse group, it’s hard to know what to look for in your own future leaders. But no matter what the specifics of your industry or organization are, great leaders share most or all of seven critical attributes.

So when the time comes to prepare successors for critical roles, look for candidates who display these traits:

1.  Selflessness

Selfless leaders are quick to look inside to identify the causes of failure, and quick to look outside to identify the causes of success. They listen first.

They are humble, as Theo perfectly demonstrated in his humorous response to being named the world’s greatest leader: “Um, I can't even get my dog to stop peeing in the house.”

2.  Vision

Outstanding leaders have a strong sense of mission and purpose, which gives them a clear compass to guide them now and in the future. They keep themselves and others focused on the things that bring them closer to realizing this vision.

3.  Drive

Great leaders are passionate and fiercely dedicated to carrying out their vision. They are achievement-oriented, hard-working leaders who never stop learning and improving.

4.  Ability To Embrace Change

Top leaders invite the new and different. They are flexible and adapt quickly to changing business conditions.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon is a prime (pun intended) example of this. He said in a commencement address, “I didn't think I'd regret trying and failing. And I suspected I would always be haunted by a decision to not try at all.”

5.  Nurturance

Actor John Cusack, in a Time Magazine essay about Theo Epstein, wrote, “His power lies in a paradox, in the knowledge that the only way to keep power is to give it away.”

Great leaders must be dedicated to building up others. Just as plants need regular watering to grow, these leaders make the development of team members a top priority.

6.  Integrity

Great leaders are committed to doing the right thing for the right reason in all situations. With strong ethics, they live out their values. Pope Francis is a perfect example of this, but you don’t need to be a religious leader to have this kind of integrity.

7.  Communication

Inspirational people lead with optimism and empathy. They know that to go far is to go together. So they make open communication a priority: they are hungry to hear from others, valuing their ideas and giving them what they need to succeed.

These qualities are the must-haves. Do your future leaders possess these traits? Which people in your organization do you think of as you read this list? The people who embody these attributes are your future leaders, and should be the bedrock of your leadership development efforts.

Click below to learn more about working with the future leaders of your organization in our free webinar on identifying high-potential employees.  

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