One of the huge challenges for filling your leadership pipeline is defining what distinguishes future superstars from everyone else.
Numerous organizations have developed programs to develop emerging leaders. Unfortunately, very few have developed reliable methods for identifying who really has the potential to have a high impact on your organization if they are properly developed.
What are the characteristics of individuals who warrant heavily investing in to help them achieve their full potential? And how do we identify those who will alter the trajectory of our organizations for the better if we will prepare and empower and enable them to have even greater influence as they grow and mature as leaders?
Successfully answering these two questions, and then acting on the insights, will transform the future of your organization. Last week, I had an “aha” moment develop out of an intriguing conversation with a rapidly rising star.
When she made a casual comment about regularly reading the Wall Street Journal on her own time, I wanted to dig deeper to better understand the factors that distinguish those who have the ability to profoundly affect their organizations and what makes them different. This rising star didn’t initially strike me as a Wall Street Journal reader. The Wall Street Journal has precious little to do with local government or her specific job duties, so I really wanted to know what motivated her.
She explained that she really hungered to learn more about the world in general, and she felt like reading broadly would help her become better and more successful, even though what she was reading didn’t have anything overtly to do with her job. In other words, she intuitively recognized that her potential for significant impact on her organization will be dramatically enhanced by her being exposed to a wide variety of information and learning how to think broadly, and she was acting on that recognition.
Her comments reverberated on Friday while I was at the Urban Counties Conference listening to Randy Mayeux provide an executive book briefing on Jim Collins’ Good to Great. One of Collins’ recommendations to become a Level 5 Leader was to “read widely”. He defined “reading widely” as learning more about the world in general, not just what fits your current context or comfort zones.
This reminded me of an interview with Warren Buffett on PBS a few months ago. When asked what he would recommend that someone do to be successful, he immediately responded, “Read”. And then Buffett went on to say that he reads an average of one book every single week.
The greatest business mind in history attributes much of his success to hungering to learn more about more every week. The one man who every business person in America wants to learn from recognizes how much he has to learn and makes it a priority each week to learn more by reading widely.
My “aha” moment was the clear parallel between Warren Buffet and this rising star. One has accomplished far beyond imagination, and the other is just beginning to lay the foundation to reach her potential as a great leader.
Yet, both of them approach life with a genuine sense of humility that says, “I have much to learn”. Both of them have been willing to act upon that knowledge and read widely to broaden their horizons, their insights, and their understanding of things outside of their comfort zones. Both of them have demonstrated the discipline to actually seek out opportunities to learn instead of just talking about it. Seeing the parallel between Warren Buffett and this rising star taught me a lot this week.
A mediocre future belongs to organizations led by those who think they have all the answers, who have never made mistakes, or who do not understand how much they have to learn. But I am willing to bet the future of my organization on those who are authentically humble, who hunger to learn more about more, and who have demonstrated a willingness to invest their own time and energy into making themselves better.
It is a bet worth taking.