Some of us realize we are leaders early in life; others may become one over time. In my opinion, not everyone is a leader, nor does everyone want to be one. How do you know if you are a leader? There are certain traits and characteristics that are strong indicators you may be a natural. Here are seven ways to know you are a leader:
1. You strive for improvement and to achieve more: A leader always seeks continuous improvement in all areas of their organization. A leader understands that the competition does not stand still. For your company to remain successful, you have to run faster than the competition. A leader understands the power of action and sets demanding, but achievable goals.
2. You understand the power of charisma: A charismatic leader is like a magnet and others will want to follow their lead. A leader understands how to influence others and obtain results by motivating and energizing those around them.
3. You understand you don’t have to be in charge to make a difference: I once had a manager who worked for me that often failed to achieve great results when he was placed in charge of a cross-functional team. When I asked him why, he would claim it could not be done because the people on the team did not report to him. When I looked into the details it turned out some of the basics of project management had not been utilized, such as having weekly meetings and reviews. Yet in the manager’s mind, the failure was due to not being their direct supervisor. A leader understands you don’t have to be the person in charge to have a major impact and lead others. Successful product managers are often excellent examples of how to get it done.
4. You seek knowledge: A leader understands that learning is a life long process. They read and take classes on a continuous basis to learn new skills and develop new ideas for their organization.
5. You value the power of relationships: To be a successful leader of others you have to understand the power of relationships and how to develop and grow with those around you. These relationships could be with coworkers, supervisors, customers, suppliers and other stake holders.
6. You walk the talk: Employees will always watch their leader and will often emulate charismatic leaders. It’s important that you “walk the talk” and set the right example. People need to believe in those they follow.
7. You understand when you are wrong and seek a fix: One of the key differences I have seen over the years between good leaders and great leaders is that great leaders can admit when they are wrong. I have worked for a couple of executives who where brilliant and successful, but their greatest weakness was their inability to understand and admit to their own mistakes. They could have accomplished even more had they had that ability. This is not an uncommon weakness in “type A” personalities. Learn to admit when you are wrong, seek a way to fix the situation and you will achieve even greater success.
If this sounds like you, congratulations, you are leader – or well on your way to being one. Leadership is about choosing to lead, understanding who you are and seeking improvement. A great leader will also understand when to let others take the reins. There has been more than one time I have let someone reporting to me make an obvious mistake, when I knew the lesson was well worth the price the mistake would cost us. Being a great leader requires that you seek to motivate, grow and excite those around you, as well as grooming future leaders for your organization. There are great rewards in seeing others improve and find success.