Where can I find powerful and inspiring leaders for our team?

While technical skills, experience and culture fit are all critical, what’s important for most business teams today is that the leader must be able to inspire others to take action. This leader does not have to be dynamically and extroverted-ly charismatic to be inspiring. While this may be a surprise, introverts can be inspiring too.

This matters because in order for a leader to be inspiring, they must be inspired themselves. So, the initiative/product/service/mission the team has been formed to produce must be something that inspires the leader – the leader must find some aspect of the work a fit for their own purposes. It is true that people can fake being passionate and inspired about almost anything for time, but they can’t pull it off forever.

I worked with a client a number of years ago who loved his job (at least the one he wanted to do, not the one his EVP wanted him to do) but really hated the culture and environment in which he was doing it. He was so unhappy and the environment wasn’t going to change. However, there were some family dynamics he was contending with and he wasn’t willing to leave the job – or make anything in his life less secure – until the family issues were in the clear. So, he told me “I’ll be the best faker you’ve ever seen”. My response was “You are mostly a pretty authentic guy. Your own integrity will not allow you to fake it for very long.” He was able to fake it for about a year (the truth was that everyone knew he was faking it, but he couldn’t stomach it any more after a year). I was surprised he made it that long, but the stakes were high for him. However, he wasn’t known by his colleagues as a good leader and they mostly circumvented him for any important decisions. His heart wasn’t in it and it showed. Even if the person thinks it doesn’t, it really shows when they aren’t deeply engaged in their work. This really does matter when that person is the leader.

A natural place to look then for the leader of your team is within the team itself. People in that team are likely to be there because they have some engagement with the remit for the team. I say ‘likely’ because there are times when people do a job or volunteer for something for which they are no longer passionate, but haven’t yet moved their feet out the door.

In the current team, not only are you likely to have people who are already inspired, you also have people who understand your enterprise and fit in your culture.

Once you find your most passionate people inside the existing team, evaluate for leadership skills. This is a little trickier because if someone hasn’t had an opportunity to lead yet, you may not know for sure if they have the skills that the team needs from its leader.

However, you can create projects and give the potential leaders on the team a chance to lead a project so you (and they) can evaluate whether they’d be a good fit.

While there are other areas in which to look for a potential leader, finding someone who is already on the team is low hanging fruit.