The entrepreneur's guide to identifying natural leaders


Leadership is about more than just performance. Some people might excel at their jobs but struggle once the burden of leadership falls on their shoulders.

Finding leadership cues is as much about potential and attitude as results. Consider those regularly bringing new ideas to the table, taking initiative or mentoring their colleagues, the people happy to take on more responsibility or run a project on their own. Are they invested in the company? Are they looking to make things better?

If you’re hiring, you have to take more of a gamble here but there are still key indicators to watch out for.

Decision making

A leader in any company needs to be able to make decisions and understand their impact. Ask candidates about difficult decisions they’ve made in the past and the solutions they arrived at. Then ask them how they got there. What was the result? In some ways, their analysis of the outcome matters more than their decision.

Leaders must to be able to learn from their decisions and weigh up their success or failure. People who hold themselves accountable and accept responsibility for their actions, good or ill, have the makings of good leaders.


Consider how the person expresses their ideas and views, how they interact with their colleagues, their subordinates and their superiors. Strong communication skills are non-negotiable in leadership.

You’re looking for someone who can get ideas across easily, someone who doesn’t shy away from sharing their plans and discussing issues, from listening. Then consider this: does this person have a vision? Ask your candidate what they think should change at the company - see if they can convince you.


Emotional intelligence may be the most crucial trait on this list but it’s not always easy to discern from good manners.

Consider if they’re a good team player. Are they willing to pitch in and help others, even if it means staying back themselves? Do they encourage their colleagues? Do they engage in drama, or do they help resolve tensions instead?

If you’re hiring for leadership positions, consider putting hypothetical social scenarios to your candidates, and see what they come up with.

Influence and style

The true test of leadership is influence. Will people actually listen to them and follow their ideas?

Not every company will work well with a drill-sergeant – but on the other hand, someone who is well-liked but lacks the confidence of their colleagues is unlikely to be able to lead the charge or carve out lasting change. Think about your company culture and what style of leadership is already working - or perhaps you feel is missing.

Self-awareness and resilience

There’s a big difference between healthy confidence and confident egotism. A good leader should be able to admit to and learn from their mistakes, without being crushed when they come up short.

Look for people who aren’t easily frustrated. People who find creative solutions to unique problems instead of throwing their hands up aren’t just more effective workers, they’re more likely to inspire the people around them.


Good leaders don’t want to be coddled and lied to – much like Tom Cruise, they want the truth, even if it’s an uncomfortable truth that means more work for them. A good leader will look at an issue not just to resolve it, but to ask, “How did this happen? How can we prevent it happening again? Is there a deeper problem here?”

It’s that kind of thinking that keeps problems from piling up or being ignored, and it’s something every company needs in their leaders.

(Lead image: Unsplash)

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