We all agree that leadership is about influence. But how do you know when you are a leader?
Are you a leader?
You have three ways to answer this question:
- Yes. You are very aware of your leadership skills. Or you are oblivious to the perception your supposed followers have of you.
- Maybe? You think you are leader but you don’t want to admit it to yourself. Or you have no idea what a “leader” is and you’re not sure what I am talking about.
- No. Your lack of self-confidence might stop you from admitting it. Or you’re really not a leader at all.
Each answer comes with the assumption that you could be either very aware, or completely mistaken. So how do you know when you’re right about being a leader (or not) (or maybe)? By defining your leader identity and what others see as a good leader.
What is the leader identity?
The leader identity depends on what your view of a good leader is and what your view of yourself is:
- Your view of a good leader: ask yourself, what are the characteristics of a leader for you? What skills, values, styles do they have? How do they behave at work?
- Your view of yourself: now, ask yourself what your own characteristics are. What are your own skills, values, styles, how do you behave?
Chances are, if both match, you will think of yourself as a leader. You will have a strong leader identity. On the opposite side, if you are introverted but think that leaders are extroverted, you will have a weak leader identity because of that mismatch.
How do you get people to follow you?
People will follow you and see you as a leader if their vision of a leader and the perception they have of you match. So how do you do that?
- Start by defining your own leader identity. Answer the questions “what makes a good leader?” and “how do my values, skills and behaviours match or do not match my own vision of leadership?”
- Understand who your potential followers are. Who are they and what are their characteristics? Introverted or extroverted? Junior or senior? etc.
- Ask them for feedback about how you are doing. You will see what people will focus on when they talk positively or negatively about your performance. If people talk a lot about communication, it’s probably because they value it as an important strength.
- After identifying what is important for them, focus on developing the skills that would make you match their idea of a leader.
This is a great way to start thinking about your leadership identity. Remember that there is no leader without followers, so understanding what makes a leader for you, for them and working towards their ideal is a sure way to get there eventually