Throughout history we can all name leaders that have truly inspired us, generating a strong and very real passion within us to succeed. It’s powerful stuff, but have you ever wondered how you can spot someone who has the potential of being a great leader? It’s a challenge, particularly when they’re sitting opposite you during a one-hour interview! Over the years, I’ve interviewed lots of people and believe that it’s possible to identify the important characteristics that set people apart from the crowd; those individuals who definitely have the ‘X’ Factor to be amazing leaders of the future.
I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers; but what I do have is a real interest and appetite for the subject, peppered with some interesting stories of my own. So here goes …
Interviewing for a range of Procurement roles over the years, I’ve seen many well-qualified people with excellent technical skills, knowledge, experience and eminently capable of fulfilling the requirements of the job. But those who made the greatest impact for me at the interview were the individuals that demonstrated those all-important ‘softer’ skills – an absolute must in the modern workplace.
Of course, it’s not an exact science. But for me, what I mean by ‘softer’ skills falls broadly into three main characteristics. The first, and foremost is Passion. When someone sitting in front of me is enthusiastic and has a genuine interest in the subject or idea – it’s infectious – I feel energised and alive. In life generally, as I’m sure many of you will relate to, it’s not as important what somebody is passionate about, more the fact that they have a passion at all. Better to have a lively debate with someone who has an interest in something, than to have to drag a discussion out of someone, who doesn’t appear to care or just agrees with you.
Secondly, those with leadership potential project Vision: they have clear thoughts and ideas and know where they’re heading. Strong candidates are able to identify complex issues and articulate how they would resolve these – often in a creative way.
Resilience is the third important characteristic. This means having a strong determination and will to succeed – no matter what happens. Of course, setbacks are a fact of everyday life, but those who can weather these and bounce back are the stronger proposition for an organisation.
So Passion, a clear Vision and Resilience are important factors for any leader. But what truly sets leaders apart is their overarching ability to take others with them. To be able to put themselves in the shoes of others, to engender trust and create an overwhelming sense of personal ownership. Being enthusiastic about a great idea is irrelevant if the leader cannot communicate and convince others to follow.
Sarah was appointed as a Non-Executive Director at Ronin in 2016. An experienced procurement/commercial professional who has held positions at BAA (Heathrow), BBC, Visa International and Mars UK Ltd. She now operates through her own company, providing interim and consultancy services to public and private sector clients.