Everybody thinks they’re a leader – most are far from it. The harsh reality is that we live in a world awash with wannabe leaders. As much as some don’t want to admit it, not everyone can or should become a leader (my take on the born vs. made argument). Simply desiring to be a leader doesn’t mean a person has the character, skill, and courage necessary to be a leader.
If you think you’re a leader, but haven’t been recognized as such, you have a problem. Either you’re incorrect in your self-assessment, or those you report to don’t recognize your talent. Here’s the good news; handled correctly, either scenario can be resolved if you’re willing to do some work.
I’m often asked what it takes to get to the top – it’s as if people want an add water and mix recipe for leadership. While there are many paths to leadership, they’re certainly not all created equal. Perhaps a more telling issue in today’s world is many of those desiring to get ahead, have no desire to help others get ahead.
I never cease to be amazed at the numbers of people in leadership positions that shouldn’t be. Likewise, I’ve stopped being surprised when those charged with leadership development can’t seem to figure out what constitutes a leader. It’s my hope the following list will eliminate the confusion about why someone isn’t a leader. You’re not a leader if…
You don’t get results: Real leaders perform – they get the job done – they consistently exceed expectations. No results = no leadership – it’s just that simple.
You get results the wrong way: If the only way you can solve the deficit described in point #1 above is through chicanery or skullduggery you’re not a leader. The ends don’t justify the means. If you abuse your influence, don’t treat people well, or confuse manipulation with leadership, you may win a few battles, but you’ll lose the war. Optics over ethics never ends well, and being a jerk doesn’t make you a leader.
You don’t care: Indifference is a characteristic not well suited to leadership. You simply cannot be a leader if you don’t care about those you lead. The real test of any leader is whether or not those they lead are better off for being led by them.
You’re chasing a position and not a higher purpose: If you value self-interest above service beyond self you simply don’t understand the concept of leadership. Leadership is about caring about something beyond yourself, and leading others to a better place – even if it means you take a back seat, or end up with no seat at all. Power often comes with leadership, but it’s not what drives real leaders.
You care more about making promises than keeping them: Leadership isn’t about your rhetoric; it’s about your actions. Leadership might begin with vision casting, but it’s delivering the vision that will ultimately determine your success as a leader.
You put people in boxes: Stop telling people why they can’t do something and show them how they can. Leaders don’t put people in boxes, it’s their obligation to free them from boxes. True leadership is about helping people reach places they didn’t know they could go.
You follow the rules instead of breaking them: Status quo is the great enemy of leadership. Leadership is nothing if not understanding the need for change, and then possessing the ability to deliver it.
You churn talent instead of retain it: Real leadership serves as a talent magnet – not a talent repellent. If you can’t acquire talent, can’t develop talent, or can’t retain talent you are not a leader.
You take credit instead of giving it: True leadership isn’t found seeking the spotlight, but seeking to shine the spotlight on others. The best leaders only use “I” when accepting responsibility for failures. Likewise, they are quick to use “we” when referring to successes.
You care about process more than people: But for the people there is no platform. Without the people you have nothing to lead. When you place things above the people you lead you have failed as a leader.