Where would we be without our A-Team? We’d be nowhere, that’s where. You can’t get any kind of traction without standouts. But so often we miss opportunities to allow our hardest chargers the room to run their aspirational lead out in the organization. Leaders beware; if you don’t identify, train, and move your mavericks to greener pastures, they’ll bolt the professional paddock on their own.
The standouts are a special breed. They see things others don’t. They possess a racing instinct in their bloodline. They can sense things in others and read people better than most. They are cognitively gifted and have the DNA to drive. They aren’t attention hogs or shifty characters who step on others to get ahead of the herd. They can do it of their own accord. And they want to do it for you and the organization.
You’ve heard me talk endlessly about followership. These standouts score high on the followership continuum. They are termed “exemplary” according to Robert Kelley’s style questionnaire. That means you won’t have to light a fire under them to get them going, however, you may have to pull back on the reigns from time to time; but that’s a nice change to have as a leader.
Next, you have to delegate your leadership tasks freely to these individuals. Standouts are independent, critical thinkers, so they’ll formulate their own judgments based on their research. The other brilliant trait standouts have is that they have a committed relationship with the organization. Therefore, they do not respond well to bureaucracy, nepotism, ethical breaches, ineptitude, laziness, or any other types of leadership lapses. They shun individual agendas and stand steadfast in defense of the reputation of the company.
Please make sure the organization does not treat these followers with disdain. In a perfect world, they would climb the ladder they so respect. In reality, they are often vilified by the very organization to which they have committed themselves. They don’t go with the flow, and they don’t tolerate incompetence. Unfortunately, many leaders are threatened by standouts either because they fear they’ll render their role obsolete, or because they grow tired of the standout pointing out areas of concern or improvement.
Standouts have an entrepreneurial spirit, even if they are working squarely in the heart of bureaucracy. This can lead to trouble with many co-workers and supervisors who might mislabel their standout’s courageous conscience as troublemaking. Standouts are invaluable because they do their job and always seek to add value to the organization. While the leader is focused on the growth of the business and working in the strategic realm, the standouts are at the helm making sure the day-to-day work of the business gets done with excellence.
So have your employees take the test and find out which are your standouts. Then make sure you delegate as much of your role as you can so they can “co-lead.” This will ensure their independent thinking skills and their need for active engagement are met. Once they trust you as their leader, you are in for one of the most incredible professional experiences in your life. You’re likely to have hundreds of coworkers and employees over the course of your career, but the standout is a rare breed. When you find one, you’ll know it and will make all the difference.