David Harding: How to identify real leaders helps in grooming the next one in that role

David Harding, President and CEO, HardingPoorman Group

Just because someone holds a position of leadership doesn’t mean he or she is an effective leader. Although there are many analytic evaluations and theoretical assessments that offer insight into leadership ability, many ineffectual “leaders” maintain their positions. Why? Leadership change is hard on everyone. Maintaining status quo is often the easier route.

Here are a few ways to identify real leaders.

■  Leaders need vision, character and integrity. Those who do not have these qualities cannot inspire teams or performance or generate sustainable value.

■  Performance talks louder than promises. Someone who has consistently experienced success in leadership roles has a much better chance of success than someone who has not.

■  The best leaders are keenly aware of how much they don’t know. One of the hallmarks of great leaders is their insatiable curiosity, especially as it relates to their organization.

■  Great leaders communicate well, both up and down the ranks.

■  Real leaders bear the blame and bestow the credit, not the other way around.

■  True leaders also develop, mentor and prepare talent for the future.

For a true test of leadership, give someone some responsibility and see what that person does with it and test their organizational skills.

Develop your inside talent

Do you have someone leading “inside talent development” within your company? If not, you should and for several important reasons.

Companies that build a reputation for aggressively developing their talent keep motivated, effective individuals from looking outside the company for their next promotion. That keeps your organization moving forward, helps prevent employee stagnation and saves money, since bringing new people on board is much more expensive than you may realize.

Someone whom you trust should be spending at least one day per week thinking about, tracking, scheduling, sourcing and driving talent development within your firm.

In growth times, the smartest leaders will look beyond hiring and focus on making the most of their existing talent.

The skinny on meetings

True leaders also hold organized meetings.

I’ve been consistent about my feelings about meetings for as long as I can remember. Simply put, I detest them. Why? Let me make this short, because I have to go to a meeting.

1. No clear agenda. Every meeting should have a clear agenda and a few simple objectives. When you leave the meeting, everyone should know his or her responsibilities.

2. Most meetings delay decisions. You meet, you mull things over, you kick the big decision down the road or, worse, await buy-in. Ridiculous. If you are that afraid to make a decision, you shouldn’t be in management.

3. Too many people. Most don’t need to be there: The evidence? The folks checking their messages and responding to emails.

4. PowerPoint presentations: A waste of time and resources. Almost always a way for someone to show off his/her knowledge. And always too long.

5. Too long. Come together, bring up what’s relevant and decide what works and what doesn’t. Move forward. In most cases, you don’t even need to sit down.

Is there a place for meetings? You bet, provided the result of any meeting is to make your business better.

Are your meetings doing that? ●

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at [email protected] For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com.