Nowadays “leader” is a term thrown around too loosely. I come from the school of thought that leaders are born, not made. That doesn’t mean a leader can’t be developed. I just don’t think anyone can be a leader just by acquiring the skills. Whether you agree or disagree, hear out my reasoning behind this theory:
Potential – Leaders are born into this world with intangible qualities that attract others to follow them. I’ve seen it on the playground as early as 2 years old. It’s not something they’re trying to do. It just comes out. When you were young, were others attracted to follow you?
Responsibility – Everyone loves to get praise when things go right, but can you handle the blame when things go wrong and it may not even be your fault? Leaders take ownership for poor results by themselves or others under their supervision. Being a leader isn’t as glamorous as advertised. It’s about deflecting the praise towards others and shouldering the burden when people are complaining. Are you willing to take the fall, under your watch, even if you’re right?
Profile – Leaders usually aren’t the outspoken, extroverts that the media portrays them to be. They’re usually the quiet, soft spoken ones who do things “under the radar.” Leaders don’t purposely seek attention. If it comes their way, fine, but it’s not something they desire. Leaders earn the respect of others by their example of consistent behavior(s). Do you “fit” the profile of a leader?
Results – One of the most important traits of a leader is the “fruit” of their labor. By definition, leadership is getting things done through people. One part task. One part relationship. Leadership is about what you’ve accomplished with and through the efforts from others. It’s like a personal resume of achievements over time. Do you have the “resume” of a leader?
Confidence – Leaders don’t need the title of leader, they’re voluntarily given it by others. If you’re driven to lead by your ego, you’re going about it wrong. Leaders are confident, but not arrogant. Confidence is usually based on past successes, but a leader has an inner confidence that isn’t shaken easily by circumstances. Everyone loves “strokes,” but leaders don’t need them. Is your confidence level unflappable, even during scrutiny?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, consider this a realization. Everyone isn’t cracked up to be a leader. In fact it’s better that way. If there are too many leaders on a team, nothing gets done. Leaders are invaluable, but that doesn’t mean you need to be one. In my opinion, the best leaders aren’t the most dynamic, but they are great at developing the people around them. So by this definition, are you a leader?