“How do you help someone embrace their leadership potential if they don’t see it themselves?”
As I travel the country meeting with leaders, I'm often asked, “How do you help someone embrace their leadership potential if they don’t see it themselves?”
Think back to the beginning of your leadership journey. Were you always aware of your leadership potential? Maybe you were. In my case, someone saw the possibility I might someday lead before I did. As a result, he was instrumental in creating my path from that day until this day.
If you’re willing to make the call, many will answer. Here are some tangible ways to help people see their own potential.
Tell them. How many times have you seen potential in someone and kept quiet about it. Maybe you lacked confidence in your own instincts. Perhaps you were misreading the signs. You didn’t want to take a risk to name something you thought you saw in someone else. Get over it. If you see it, say it! Your fear and insecurity is about you, not them. Servant leaders think others first. Imagine the potential loss if you don’t tell them.
Make your case. Be ready to substantiate your belief. Share specific examples that make you think the person in question can lead. “When I saw you do this…” or, “when you said, that… you were demonstrating real leadership.” Be prepared to verbalize any evidence of leadership skill or leadership character. Be specific. This will build your credibility and their confidence in your assessment of them.
Challenge them. If you see latent or emerging leadership potential, it will need to be nurtured and developed over time. Encourage him or her to steward the talents and gifts that have been entrusted to them. Don’t hesitate to make specific recommendations. I remember a leader who I felt had huge potential but needed more polish and confidence when speaking in public. I not only told him, I pushed him to grow in this area. Today, he is an accomplished communicator and leader.
Paint a picture. Help them see a preferred future in which their leadership is making a difference in the world. Cast a compelling vision for the impact he or she can have if they are willing to lead. Describe how the world wins if he or she steps up. You may want to say something like… “Imagine the possibilities the future holds if you are willing to lead!”
After you do all the activities outlined above, there is a chance he or she will still not get it. When this happens, follow your heart. Maybe you should try again – and again. However, at some point, if they fail to see their potential, you’ll have to admit, you were wrong.
Don’t be surprised or discouraged when this happens. It’s okay. I would rather try and fail than fail to try. The cost of missing the mark is minimal, the upside if you get it right is huge. The world needs more leaders!
Who can you encourage today to step into leadership?