Looking for Leaders

Are you hiring managers, when what you really want are leaders?

The words get used interchangeably but they are not the same.


Managers control processes in order to achieve business results. Leaders influence, motivate, and inspire others to contribute to successful outcomes.
Leaders may also manage. However, a manager doesn’t always have what it takes to be a leader.

Leadership Traits

When looking for leaders, you’re looking for individuals with certain qualities.
According to leadership guru Brian Tracy, the seven attributes of strong leaders are:

  • Vision
  • Courage
  • Integrity
  • Humility
  • Strategic Planning
  • Focus
  • Cooperation

As you can see, these are very different from managerial traits. Among the qualities of strong managers, for example, are organizational skills, time management skills, and the ability to delegate.

Identifying Attributes

It all may sound logical, but aren’t some of these attributes rather difficult to identify?
Can’t you look at job history to determine if a candidate has leadership traits? For example, if a candidate has progressed in his or her career, taking on greater responsibilities with each position, isn’t he or she most likely a leader?
Not necessarily. Unless you know why the company chose to promote the person, and what that company’s management values in its employees, you are making assumptions that could turn out to be false. Perhaps the person was/is simply a great manager.
Identifying leadership traits requires figuring out who a candidate is, as opposed to what they’ve done.
Asking the right kinds of interview questions will provide insight. Here is one example for each of the seven attributes of strong leaders:

  • If you were offered the job of [fill in the blank], do you envision changing or growing the department? If so, how?
  • Tell me about a time where it took courage to address a workplace situation.
  • Tell me about a manager or coworker who, in your opinion, has a great deal of integrity, and why you thought of them when I said “integrity.”
  • What is it important is to exhibit humility in the workplace?
  • If you are given a new project, what is the first thing you do?
  • Our company’s priorities sometimes change, although our objectives usually do not. How do you stay focused and keep staff on track?
  • How do you typically go about gaining cooperation and buy-in from difficult staff members and colleagues?

Reference checking that asks about leadership traits will also tell you more about the candidate. Personality testing likewise may prove helpful.
Is the candidate a manager or a leader? Make sure you find out before extending the job offer.

Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.

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