My wife and I operate a foundation where we give college scholarships to high school seniors who will be majoring in engineering, science or math. In interviewing a perspective recipient recently I was struck by how clear it was that she has real leadership potential.
I asked this candidate to outline activities where she played a role that she believed really made a difference. She indicated she was a member of the robotics club since her freshman year and that she really enjoyed the challenges of working with the team in putting robots together.
In her junior year she was elected president and she explained that each year the toughest task for the team had always been deciding what to build that year. The selection was left to the team by the faculty coordinator. As president she led the effort by having the team hear all the individual member’s proposals and debating them as a group. She then proposed and got agreement to a modified version of one of the ideas. After the selection was made, she organized who would work on what parts of the robot prior to final assembly. Once complete, during the next several months, she made sure all the logistics were nailed down for getting the team to the various robotics tournaments around the state.
This example caused me to think back of my many years at Procter & Gamble and the three traits we always put at a very high priority in interviewing job candidates.
1.) Early Indicators – Look way back at prior jobs as well as what they did during their schooling that would indicate the sense of personal responsibility that is typically the cornerstone of leadership.
2.) Consistency Over Time – The real leaders exhibit leadership traits very early in life and exhibit those traits over and over again in various contexts. Look for that consistency as you probe for examples of them playing a leadership role.
3.) Pride in the Team’s Accomplishment – Beware of the person who attempts to take the majority of the credit in regard to accomplishments they are describing to you. You are looking for the person who really cares about the team winning.
Clearly the girl I interviewed is off to a great start in becoming one of those people you hope to run into when you are out there looking for strong leadership talent.