I open some of my talks by telling the audience the presentation they are about to hear is not for them. After I let that sink in, I ask them to think of a leader they know who has failed to live up to their potential or perhaps the person who comes to mind is stuck in their career. I then tell them, “This talk is about how you may be able to help your friend.”

At this point, the attendees are usually with me. Most of us can think of someone brimming with leadership potential who just doesn’t seem to deliver or a member of our team we continue to think of as “full of untapped potential.” At some point in every leader’s career, people should stop talking about your “untapped potential or raw talent.”

Others listening to my remarks may have a different thought. As they look in the mirror, in a moment of candor, they may admit they are the person I described. For reasons that continue to escape them, they have not met their own expectations as a leader.

Regardless of the scenario, my talk is intended to help. Here’s a quick overview of my comments.

For me, leadership is comprised of two primary elements: Character and Skills. The first question you need to ask when you are trying to help someone else raise his or her level of leadership is this: What’s the root problem? Is the issue most likely a question of skills or character? For their sake, I hope it is a skill gap – these are much easier to address. If that is your diagnosis, help him or her create a development plan to acquire the needed skill(s) and your work is done.

However, if you see no apparent skill gap, the problem is likely deeper. The world is full of leaders with impressive credentials who people choose not to follow. These leaders have a much harder road ahead. Today’s Challenge question is from a leader who wants to know, Can you help someone develop leadership character?

The good news is you can, if the person wants to change. Unfortunately, this willingness to change, or lack thereof, is often the first stumbling block.

To become a leader people want to follow is primarily an issue of the heart. The truth is, if your heart is not right, no one cares about your skills. I wrote about this extensively in The Heart of Leadership. Rather than recap that content in this post, I’ll stay at a higher level. If you want to help someone develop leadership character, here are a few suggestions…

  • Define leadership character in behavioral terms.
  • Ask the leader you are attempting to serve about his or her strengths and opportunities as they consider your definition.
  • Listen intently – If the leader has blind spots that may be hurting him or her, share your own observations.
  • Cast a compelling vision for a future in which these strengths are leveraged and gaps closed: “Just imagine…”
  • Help him or her put together a plan to address the issues you identify.
  • Determine the best follow-up and accountability plan to meet the leader’s individual needs.
  • When you follow-up, praise progress and continue the journey!

If a person is going to change, he or she will need Motivation, Information and Assistance. You can help with all three![GLS_Shield]

Idea for Action: Identify a leader you can help get unstuck.

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.