There’s no doubt that having the right leaders in place in your business can have a major impact on the overall success of your organization. Identifying leaders is the first step. Some leaders don’t know they’re leaders yet and some think they are but they don’t have the qualities a good leader should have. There’s a huge difference between a leader and a boss. Bosses bark orders, lead through words and take credit. Leaders inspire, lead through action, and share the wealth. I might write a future blog about moving leaders up in your organization but for now, I want to help you in the process of identifying leaders.

The best way to identify leaders is to be present. You, or someone with keen instinct and the ability to really listen, needs to observe your team. Be proactively looking for, and listening for, the qualities that make someone a good leader. That leads to the real question, what are those qualities? Though the answer could be a lengthy list of traits, I’m going to simplify it down to a few so you can really focus on finding the people with these skills. Now, let’s start identifying leaders!


Leaders communicate through interaction and engagement. They are present when they are having a face-to-face conversation. They can adapt to communicating with people of other behavioral styles. Good leaders go beyond communicating and connecting. Your team may flock to a particular individual and this may be an indication this person could be a leader.

Leadership Speech

Leaders speak to their audience, not at them.

Leaders will prioritize a personal interaction over the choice to answer a text message, or type on a computer. Taking notes for a meeting is one thing, but the distracted non-pointed behavior is another. Even though the use of social media and other communication channels, your leaders know how to inspire people. Communication skills are a key component in Identifying leaders.

Mental Clarity

How well do your team members maintain their composure? How well do they keep their focus? Great leaders stay calm, collected, and focused. They stay on-track and proactively try to help keep others on track as well. I’ve noticed that the best natural leaders rarely get nervous, or they just don’t show it. No pre-game jitters, just action, and performance. Do they work well under pressure? Can they overcome obstacles and get tasks done? If you notice a real ability¬†to show creativity in a chaotic situation, you have found a great leadership quality. Identifying leaders involves you being able to gauge one’s mental clarity, composure, and focus.

Identifying Leaders

A great leader will keep their cool and focus through any challenge

Let me point out that this does NOT mean that performance equals leadership ability. Not every leader is the best performer in the group. Potential is more important than performance when it comes to identifying leaders. Team members who proactively go above and beyond, and who take action to create better strategies and processes could be your leadership candidates vs the team members with the highest sales or the most awards.


Holding people accountable is essential in any facet of life. Leaders have a natural instinct to take responsibility for their actions. A good leader will take the blame for the team’s failure to deliver, versus making excuses or throwing a tantrum. A leader will hold their team members accountable without throwing them under the bus, humiliating them, or treating them poorly. Leadership is all about building up others around you, not tearing them down.

A great technique for identifying leaders is to watch how people act in team performance situations. Are their individuals that are better at acting as the leader vs bossing people? A good leader won’t just delegate tasks, they’ll take action to collaboratively ensure those around them can accomplish those tasks. Accountability isn’t often accomplished by those who are lazy and in my experience, I haven’t met many really good leaders who are lazy. They’re willing to get ‘down and dirty’ if they need to in order to benefit those around them.

Leaders are catalysts, they cause things to happen and create an environment for improvement

The easiest question to ask yourself here is “are they a catalyst?” People who are a catalyst are people who know how to make things happen or find the people that can. They don’t watch things unfold or go undone, they bring cohesion. A catalyst will dive into determining a solution, others will simply observe from the sidelines for a while, or maybe for the full duration.


I’ve met leaders of many shapes, sizes, personalities, and behavioral styles. There’s a difference between confidence and arrogance and that line can be hard to define sometimes. A good leader is confident, and not afraid to talk about their accomplishments, depending on their personality. Most leaders want to ‘horn toot’ because they understand it’s engaging and it inspires (when done properly). A poor leader will take every opportunity to talk about themselves without any intent or action to benefit others or motivate them. “Hey, look what I did” is a very different statement than “hey, look at me.”

A good leader can adapt to learn to be a team player in any group situation

It is not uncommon for me to share my successes with others in a way that may inspire them to take action. Make a mental note now that not everyone can be motivated. What is uncommon for me is to not have a team mindset. A good leader should be hyper-aware that anyone in their presence could be influenced, so they’re ready and willing to do something with that. Bad leadership is ignoring all of the opportunities life presents us with the ability to inspire. Identifying leaders is part of the process of being able to identify personalities.

Emotional Intelligence

Being a leader often means the need to make hard choices. There are sometimes in a leader’s life when they won’t be the most popular or liked by everyone because of this. I often tell my business colleagues that I “make decisions with my head, but speak with my heart”. Leaders must have the right duality of compassion and firmness. They are great team players but are able to address an individual and provide constructive criticism. Sometimes they may seem like they have two sides to them. Do you have a team member who puts others before themselves? Do they take the time to help and interact? Is this person a ‘people person’ who develops relationships well?

The best of leaders have a great balance of head & heart

These traits indicate a high level of emotional intelligence and that is a major need when identifying leaders. Your best leaders will be able to stand up for themselves, but they’ll never act out of line doing so. They will stand up for others without being confrontational.

I hope this helps you in identifying leaders. You should now have a good understanding of what skills leaders have, and I hope you find at least one good one in your organization. You may likely find folks with those skills, just not the experience or confidence. That can be taught. Trainers, like Trish Buzzone, can help raise the ceiling on your leaders, and inspire them to grow and develop. Leadership is one of my favorite facets of my life and it’s a huge part of both my personal and professional life. Finding the right leaders in your organization will absolutely make the biggest difference and I hope now you can at least feel more comfortable in the process of identifying them.

Trish Buzzone, Executive Director of the John C. Maxwell Team