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How to cultivate leadership in your organization (3)

A leadership preparedness strategy focused on cultivating future leaders enables a continuous leadership transition when properly planned. However, a leaders’ task is managing talent effectively and meeting the organization’s strategic business objectives by building a talent pool of imminent leaders. In this article, we shall continue our discussion on the strategic approach to cultivating leadership in your organisation.

The right kind of person

When selecting leaders, the right kind of traits, temperaments, and desires can make the difference between success and failure. For example, when creating a leadership program, the first group that should be removed from the candidacy pool are those who do not wish to lead or be in the programme. For many different reasons people find themselves either enjoying where they are in an organization or have enough understanding to know they lack the requisite skill to achieve higher levels of performance. Sorting out leaders from the rest of the group can be easily accomplished by allowing a self-selection process. It should be noted, however, that a self-selection process is biased to more assertive individuals.

Tools and assessments are a good component of assessing leadership candidacy. Both the Myers-Briggs and the Big 5 are regularly used in organizational settings and often bring great value to businesses. One reason why these assessments may be beneficial is exemplified in the research carried out by Depue and Collins who determined that extraversion had two basic distinctions: first, the desire for leadership roles, and second, the desire for sociability. While these two facets may overlap at times, social people do not necessarily desire leadership positions.

Allowing leadership candidates to understand their base inclinations can be a powerful asset within an organization. By learning their own preferences, leaders will be more readily prepared to identify the preferences of others. These preferences will produce both strengths and weaknesses and can be cultivated or hedged as the situation arises.

Read Also: How to cultivate leadership in your organisation (2)

General mental ability

The general mental ability is a significant predictor of job performance and trainability. As uncomfortable as it may be, those who aspire to be leaders in complex organizations must be mentally sharp. Hence, trait openness and conscientiousness are often factors in predicting job performance in abstract, high-pressure positions. The more difficult the leadership situation, the greater the mental capacity required, and trait openness is an indicator of mental capacity: therefore, a leader must possess a higher level of trait openness. Likewise, work ethic requires trait conscientiousness, therefore, a leader must possess a higher level of trait conscientiousness.

Complex situations require greater cognitive ability in order to process effectively. This is demonstrated by how a lower general mental ability leads to task neglect under stressful situations. Without the ability to quickly process abstract information, a leader’s ability to act with purpose and circumspection would be in doubt. It is therefore vital that leaders in highly abstract, pressure-prone leadership roles have greater than average mental acuteness.


Good leaders must be assertive, for, without assertiveness, leadership is not possible. Leadership is about communication and often that communication can become uncomfortable. It appears that having a higher extraversion and lower agreeableness tends to be traits of more assertive people. Those lower on the agreeableness spectrum of the Big 5 personality assessment may be better at engaging in leadership. Leadership is about going out from one’s self and engaging with both the world and with people. Individuals who cannot assert their ideas in such a way that people are willing to follow are not capable of leadership.

Willingness to learn

Self-directed learning can be one of the most valuable tools in the leader’s arsenal. Self-directed learning requires a person to take responsibility for their own learning and education without relying on the exclusive direction of others. While classical education is important, universities cannot encompass every situation that a leader may encounter. Society, technology, and work environments change at such a rapid pace that leaders need to be constantly educating themselves, keeping current about the changes and breakthroughs that can potentially affect their goals.

Leaders are expected to help people grow along with moving them from point A to point B. In situations in which the leader must teach and grow people, the leader must have knowledge over and above those they are leading. Ignorance will not maximize growth potential for followers or an organization as a whole.

Lessons for leaders

Strong arguments can be made that leaders cannot be instructed, rather they must learn how to lead through experience. This means that leadership happens outside of a classroom setting and cannot be fully understood by academics alone. Creating a good learning environment for leaders involves developing a certain amount of uncertainty and chaos. Leaders cannot practice their craft in safe, structured environments because leadership happens when people tackle the unknown. I argue for 5 different basic components that should be a part of any leadership methodology. While leadership cannot exactly be taught, there are academic tools that will help develop leadership abilities to handle the unknown.

Do look out for a continuation of this article.

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