Marry Character

I’ve had my share of putting people in roles prematurely. Early in my leadership I placed someone I perceived to be gifted into a role even though they had given me reason to wonder whether they had fully embraced our organizational values and vision. I thought I was different, that I could win them over by putting them into a role that would challenge them and give them opportunity to express their leadership potential.

I was wrong, and the result was a world of relational hurt for everyone involved.

A wise leader once told me to give people tasks before a role. Allow people to demonstrate character and competence in a series of tasks before locking them into a long-term role. This was some of the best advice I’ve been given in my leadership.

It’s similar to the advice I give my children when it comes to selecting a mate: Marry character, not potential. What if the person stays exactly how they are, would you be okay living with that potential your whole life? I firmly believe that leader readiness trumps opportunity and that we need to observe the character and skills of those around us before onboarding or moving to the next level of leadership responsibility.

This is something I think leaders too often intuit rather than actually do.

What do you do to test the potential of your people?

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