While scouring the Internet a few days ago, I came across a fascinating diagram of famous chefs and their mentors.
Many of them household names, the kitchen maestros listed all shared one thing in common – they had risen from relative obscurity and been mentored and trained for much bigger things from within.
Chefs have to be great leaders, and it’s always fascinated me that leadership can develop within people who might otherwise reside much further down the company food chain.
The key thing, clearly, is finding these people and nurturing their latent leadership talent. But how do you do that, and, more importantly, how do you identify such capabilities in the first place?
Shift the review focus from performance to potential
When you carry out staff reviews, there’s a good chance you’ll focus somewhat more heavily on performance rather than potential.
Current performance is of course a vital metric, but measuring the potential of people will help you identify leadership qualities.
It’s important to sweat the small stuff, too; the way they conduct themselves in meetings, for example, might hint at a room-commanding power.
Assess the level of engagement
Employees often make suggestions for process improvement. However, those who go above and beyond to prove a point when they think their suggestion will change the business profoundly are the ones to watch.
Someone who believes passionately that their idea will incite big change is usually highly and emotionally engaged with the company. They may appear irritating at first, but look deeper; could they be a leader?
Look for starring roles, not watchers
People who stand on the side-lines shouldn’t be ignored (and, indeed, some may have hidden leadership qualities), but they stand in the shadow of the people who make things happen.
Sticking with the celebrity chef theme, there’s a clear link between the most successful; they all go out of their way to do more outside the kitchen. Almost without exception, they indulge in book writing, TV shows and charitable campaigns – far more than ‘simply’ cooking award-winning dishes.
It’s easy to dismiss this as self-promotion, and while that’s true to a degree, self-promotion can only happen if you stand up from your desk and get on with it.
Identify regular failures
People who fail consistently shouldn’t be dismissed as incompetent.
By identifying such employees and reviewing their failures, you might find that they’re simply trying to achieve something far bigger than their current job title and set of responsibilities allows.
What’s more, if they’re embracing failure and not allowing it to stunt their drive, you may well have stumbled across a fabulous future leader.
Find the multitaskers
Employees who dream of more responsibility and the opportunity to inspire others are usually great multitaskers.
If you find a particular person who seems keen to take on more tasks at once than should ever be deemed sensible, any naivety must be ignored; they clearly want to push themselves to limits with which only leaders are familiar.
Finding leaders within your team is wonderful. Beyond the obvious savings in recruitment costs and time, nurturing such people is immensely satisfying and usually results in a leader who has a strong emotional bond with the organisation.