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:

  1. Yes. You are very aware of your leadership skills. Or you are oblivious to the perception your supposed followers have of you.
  2. 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.
  3. 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