Leaders can be found at all levels of an organization. For sure, you will see them sitting at the boardroom table, but you will also see leaders in the mailroom, on the factory floor and in the cafeteria. In fact, wherever you look — if you look closely enough — you will find a leader. What do they look like? How are they different from everyone else? How can you spot them in a crowd?

day5-20080825- ?The sure fire way is to ask a simple question — “what would you do?”

Now, I have found that almost everyone has an answer to this question. Try it out. Frame a question and then check your organization chart — fire off half a dozen emails to your direct reports and others across your business unit. Then listen to the answers. What you are listening for is not a solution to the problem (ie there are no right and wrong answers here); you are listening for the response of a leader. What you will find is that the responses generally fall into two categories:

  • Management responses: the discussion will focus on processes. A good manager will establish a process for solving the problem. They will organize, prioritize and delegate tasks. These folks are important to the functioning of your business.
  • Leadership responses: the discussion will start conceptually but will also focus on substance. The leaders within your organization will get involved with the issue and drive towards a resolution of the problem.

As Steve Roesler points out, great leaders “… all do what the situation demands”. Finding those leaders across your organization helps you build a much more adaptive and resilient business — and sometimes all it takes is a simple question. Try asking it today.

Nina Nets It Out: Not all of the leaders in your business are executives. But in their own way they can add tremendous value to your organization. Asking some simple questions can help you identify and develop them.