Tips for Recognizing Leadership Qualities

Oct. 22, 2019
In order to pinpoint leaders on their staff, shop operators need to have frequent one-on-one discussions with employees.

Roughly one in 10 people possess the talent to manage, according to Gallup, a global analytics firm.

So, if you’re observing your staff, how can you tell what makes one person a leader? Look for the growth mindset, experts say. 

“A leader will be hungry to grow personally and professionally, and hungry to grow with a team that is growing, “ says Doug Conant, a former CEO of Campbell Soup company (See Sidebar: Conant’s Concept of Leadership for more on his career) and a New York Times bestselling author.

Conant, who has written multiple leadership books, including The Blueprint: 6 Practical Steps to Lift Your Leadership To New Heights, says it all boils down to 10 important words:

“If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Meanwhile, Lisa Siembab, currently a part-owner of CARSTAR Berlin (Conn.), says that a leader needs to be a resource provider. 

With over 25 years of experience, she’s a leader today, but a few years ago, she was working her way through the CARSTAR ranks as part of its corporate marketing team. 

“A part of being a leader means that you love what you’re doing and have the proper resources to do your job well,” Siembab says. “My job is to provide those resources so [employees] can become leaders themselves.”

Developing leaders in the shop might not always be an obvious choice and requires close observation and consideration, she says. 

Conversely, Jeff Feasel, general manager for Feasel’s Frame & Collision, views leading as empowering others. He says that in order for him to recognize management qualities within his team, he takes a step back from micromanaging and focuses on employee empowerment.

Feasel’s shop has nine technicians that have been developed through training programs with local technical and vocational schools.

Below, Conant, Siembab and Feasel share tips that have helped them develop leaders within their company.

Conant's Concept to Leading 

Doug Conant, a leader in brand management for over 40 years, says that, when he took over a business like Campbell Soup, he had to re-assess who to keep in the company and who to let go. He turned over 300 of the top 350 leaders in his early years as CEO. And, he promoted 150 people from within and hired 100 leaders from outside the company. Through the turnover, he increased his employee engagement and created a culture of high trust. Conant asked himself these three questions to make the tough decisions in his career:

    No. 1: Why do I want to lead?

    No. 2: How will I show up in a way that is beneficial for me?

    No. 3: How will I be effective in the culture I’m operating?


Observe your team’s work ethic.

One of Siembab’s best performers in the shop is her customer service representative or front desk receptionist. She says she hired the CSR because the woman displayed qualities of empathy and quick learning, even though she came from the retail industry.

Siembab always seeks passionate workers. If an employee isn’t passionate about the work he or she is doing, then he or she will perform in a sub-standard manner.

Feasel recommends that a shop owner observe employees while they work and not step in immediately when trying to finish a project. Often, an employee will come to the manager and ask what they did wrong and ask for advice. That type of initiative shows Feasel they’re potential shop leaders.

Conant recommends a leader look for employees that have a growth mindset and want to grow personally. These people demonstrate curiosity regarding how they can perform better. Avoid employees with a fixed mindset because they will only show up to accomplish their tasks and go no further. 

“Look for the employee’s strengths and assign them work based those characteristics,” he says.

Talk with your employees one on one.

Even if an employee demonstrates leadership qualities, the manager won’t recognize it if he or she doesn’t check in with their staff periodically.

CARSTAR company policy is to have annual reviews with employees, but Siembab says she also likes to go and talk to staff members one on one about continuous improvement. 

“I have 10-minute informal conversations with them,” she says. 

During that meeting, she asks the following three questions:

    “What are the three things in the job that you value?”

    “What are the three things that you value in the company?”

    “What are the most important ways you can show up?”

For example, Siembab had a young prepper at her shop who started out as an entry-level worker but quickly displayed an exemplary work ethic. When she brought him in for an annual review, she asked him about his future career goals.

“I want to be a painter,” he said.

Siembab had to take the initiative herself to find out where this prepper wanted to go in his job. 

Feasel, meanwhile, speaks casually with his staff each morning. He’ll hand out daily assignments and discuss the game plan. He sets these talks up so his team knows they can use it for addressing concerns or ideas they have.

Try a hands-off leadership approach.

Seimbab often steps back from controlling the situation as a leader so that she can determine if someone is adept at dealing with a challenge or isn’t comfortable with the status quo.

“You can’t assume that just because you have them in the body shop department for example, that this person doesn’t want to take on a challenge and become an estimator,” she says.

By stepping back, Siembab is also able to see who comes in late to work on a regular basis, for example. The employee’s true patterns will emerge when the manager is not always noticeably present.

In a similar vein, Feasel tries not to micromanage his staff, and his shop has very little turnover as a result. 

“You have to be patient because everyone is human,” he says. “When you get frustrated, remember that you make mistakes, too.”

Instead of directing employees, ask them how you, as a leader, can be helpful in the process, Conant says. The employee should give his or her two cents into the conversation. If the person has an appetite to grow, he or she will tell you what is needed to succeed.

Provide positive reinforcement.

Emotional support, training, equipment and a positive work environment help cultivate an individual who’s driven to improve in the job, Siembab says.

When she sits down with her staff, she covers the positives of their performance and always makes sure to ask, “Do you like what you’re doing?”

One way she reinforces the drive to improve is by offering to pay for training for employees to learn a new skill. Then, she’ll work to find a role that can allow the employee to gain a new title.

Feasel focuses on showing his team the positive outcomes of their hard work every day. When a customer leaves a positive review, he prints it out and brings it to the employee. 

“Congratulate your team for the little things,” Feasel says. 

Conant agrees. He says to honor people that are part of the enterprise and give them opportunities to move into senior roles. Or, a leader can merely recognize a job that was completed correctly, like finishing a to-do list.

He also recommends having the employee work on one or two projects in a critical way instead of numerous projects. When working on a large number of items, the employee is more likely to miss important steps due to haste.

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