Leaders do a lot of things: make decisions, manage team members, mediate conflicts, guide through challenges, cast vision, and a multitude of other tasks. But what makes a leader? How do you know if you’re a leader? How do you know if you’ve found a leader? Often those we least expect rise in a significant leadership role, whereas others we thought had great potential end up disappointing us. What should we look for in a leader? How do we know when someone has potential? I generally am looking for three qualities: calling, competency, and character.
- Calling: I define this as a strong or even unavoidable desire to take on a task. Is there a genuine desire to lead? Is there a passion that is evident in the leader’s life? Some highly qualified and gifted people simply don’t have a desire to lead others, and this will ultimately lead to frustration or disappointment for all parties involved. To be sure, sometimes we are placed in leadership unexpectedly, and we should most certainly not selfishly seek power and control, but if once in that leadership position we fail to humbly embrace it, we will do a disservice to those we lead.
- Competency: We’ve already established a leader must do many things. In fact, the competencies required of a leader could be an endless list, and none of us have every quality imaginable. But there are certainly those who may desire a position of leadership but lack the skills and gifts needed to do so. In my experience, we can only motivate our teams so much. Eventually what earns their respect and confidence is seeing that their leader knows what he or she is doing. Precisely because none of us are strong in every area, the greatest competency of a leader may be the ability to surround yourself with others who are highly gifted.
- Character: How many times have we seen highly competent and successful leaders throw away that success with poor decisions? Pride, selfishness, lying, cheating, corruption, and many other marks of poor character have derailed countless leaders. We focus so much on developing the competencies needed to lead and do our jobs, but what about our character? Carey Nieuwhof says, “Your competency leaves the first impression, but your character leaves the lasting one.” Many individuals have a desire and even the skills to lead, but without character, their leadership will never reach its full potential, and may even end up in disaster.
There are certainly many other qualities we want to look for in a leader: hard-working, good communicator, highly organized, able to make decisions, etc. These things certainly matter and we should want to be and develop these kinds of leaders! But if I can find someone who’s passionate about what they do, has the skills and abilities to do the job, and who has the maturity and character to match their calling and competency, then I think that’s a great start!