On a professional networking website, I responded as below to a discussion on “How do you identify and encourage leadership in your team?”
Leadership has a higher chance of coming to the fore in an environment permitting free flow of ideas, thoughts (convergent & divergent) and actions that emanate from them. Such an environment can be created and tolerated by a passionate leader who observes, mediates and mentors to create a democratic regime where everyone can have their rightful say and even have growth aspirations along with the realisation that no one in indispensable.
The leader must want to create an establishment which is largely self-driven where capability and excellence is the norm for growth and which can say tide over difficult times even without a leader.
The leader of the group must take the onus for achievements and failures of his team. He must reward those who succeed and support / motivate those who fall short to do better next time…
The above is thus the context…..
The leader must be conscious of people within his team, their body language, skills, capabilities, actions, mindsets, utterances and even the meaning behind their silence to spot those who are capable and can act, galvanise and be responsible for more than herself to achieve a common end. Such leaders-to-be must be mentored early by feeding their ambitions, giving them more responsibilities, challenging their thoughts, tracking their progress, shamelessly (but objectively) flogging them for their shortcomings and pointing them to the right path in the horizon.
Leaders must not be afraid to unlearn in this fostering process when he might be confronted by thoughts of his protege(s) divergent from his but also correct. It is a period of maturity which will be exciting for both the leader and his protege(s) because they both want light to permeate and achieve a goal for which the paths may be many or few but confusing. It is through experience (largely) and right actions that the right path would be found. The leader together with his protege must find the ‘path leading towards brightness’. While this happens the others in the flock being led must be attended to as much so as to keep the emotions and egos in balance and focused towards the team objectives to be achieved.
This process of spotting / nurturing leaders is intuitive and cannot be expressed in words adequate so that others can duplicate.
It is, I think, a very critical trait of a true leader and known more by the state of the system when he might become absent.