What Makes A Great Leader?



This blog was written by Ben Wood, Business Development Specialist at The Center-West, as part of the Manufacture Smarter blog series. View the original post here

leader-arrow.jpgFinding talent is tough.

As of now, that statement rings true across every industry. The supply of skilled workers is not meeting the demand of employers who need to fill job openings. As this gap continues to grow, some employers find themselves defaulting to their long-standing employees to fill leadership positions within the company.

A conversation like the one below may take place in the instance of a recently vacated position:

General Manager“Well Greg, Beth is retiring, and we need someone to run our saw department. You have been working here for 15 years and know the customers, jobs and people better than anyone else in the department. How would you like to fill her shoes?”

Greg“That sounds great! I have been waiting for this opportunity and I promise I won’t let you down!”

It’s entirely possible that a candidate like Greg may end up being a great fit for the elevated role. Employees should be given opportunity to move up within an organization, and promoting from within has the potential to be an effective and promising strategy. However, if an employer is looking at a limited scope of qualifications in its internally promoted candidates, like length of employment, the issue of overlooking a more recently hired employee who might be better suited for the job arises.

Leaders wear many hats; they’re a coach, a mentor, and a support-system for their team. Just because an employee has worked long enough to know the ins and outs of an establishment and has relationships with co-workers and clients does not mean that they have the proper skills to take on such heightened levels of responsibility.

Filling a leadership role with an individual who is simply the most tenured in a department has the potential to result in an array of internal and external issues. This can include, but is not limited to, miscommunication of expectations, inability to delegate or discipline, and the overarching stress that comes with managing a group of individuals. There are certain skillsets and personalities required for a leadership role, and they should be taken into consideration during the hiring process.

Working at any company for a long period of time doesn’t make you a good leader. Sure, you have the tribal knowledge, but do you have the skills to make your “tribe” even better? According to Forbes, there are a few essential qualities of a leader. Here are some to remember:

  • Great communication skills. Lack of communication can lead to poor results that may not reflect well on the company. Leaders must be motivational, consistent, and be able to discipline, even when under pressure. These traits cannot always be taught.
  • Sincerity. Leaders should be sincere in every aspect of the job. They should have a clear passion for the business and its offerings, be approachable, and create loyalty among colleagues. An enthusiastic leader will create a unified team.
  • Decisiveness. Leaders need to represent the ability to delegate, take risks, and make decisions. They are there to take charge and hold everyone accountable.

If you are stuck in a position where you need to fill an empty place in the company and cannot find new talent, look internally, but don’t overlook potential in the less obvious choices. Leadership capabilities do not always sprout from seniority.


WOOD_B-WEB2019.jpgBen Wood, The Center-West Business Development Specialist
As a member of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center-West team, Ben is responsible for working with small to medium sized manufacturers in West Michigan, focusing on Mason, Lake, Osceola, Oceana, Newaygo, Mecosta, Muskegon, Montcalm, Ionia, and Northern Kent Counties. He helps them assess their opportunities for continuous improvement and growth. Ben builds partner collaborations with regional economic development offices, manufacturing organizations, workforce development organizations, and a network of subcontractors to provide the best overall solution to the company.


Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Categories: Leadership/Culture