Earn the Right to Lead


Many people still seem to think leadership comes from your title, position, or having the corner office. This attitude results in what we like to call “Taskmaster Leadership” The focus, as the title suggests, is on tasks. It’s easy to use your authority over others as the hammer. But it will inevitably lead to high turnover. What if you were to take the approach that your primary focus should be on how you can earn the right to lead, every single day? How would things shift?

How do I evaluate this?

You start with yourself. Make a list of the most important leadership attributes. Here are a few examples:

  • Set a clear vision and direction for my team.
  • Demonstrate personal commitment.
  • Show my team members that I care about them.
  • Admit mistakes.
  • Lead by going first and setting the example.
  • My words and actions match.

You can add to this list (there are 15 statements on our full assessment). Next, for each statement, look through the eyes of your team. Rate yourself as they would rate you on a scale of 1-10. The higher the score, the more strongly you think they would agree with the statement. Scores of less than 9-10 reveal areas of opportunity and growth.

This can be a tough exercise. Tough because we tend to feel defensive and focus on our intentions, which don’t always match our actions. Teenagers and other immature beings can get away with blaming the recipient for misunderstanding the intent of their words or actions. Leaders cannot. So challenge yourself to be really honest in rating yourself on how your team members perceive you. Not on how you’d like to be perceived.

I feel exposed. Now what?

If you’ve been really honest in your assessment, you may feel a little vulnerable or exposed There’s nothing like taking a good hard look at how you’re doing in the eyes of others to make all of us feel a little sheepish. Take heart—you’re not alone. And all is not lost. By even being willing to evaluate how you’re doing through their lens, you’ve taken a huge step in the right direction.

Now it’s time to think a little more about your team. Break down the group into a list of individuals. Go back through your list and scores. Who stands out as someone who would have rated you lower? Trends will emerge. In a team of 8-10 people, you may be able to identify one or two individuals with whom you need to put in more work. You also may find that there are one or two specific attributes which need more attention.

Take heart and Move forward

The only way to move past the negative feelings which may arise when you realize you have work to do, is to do the work. Who are the individuals on your team with whom you need to do more work to earn the right lead? Is there one behavior you’ve identified which you can change to get a different result? How about one attitude or belief? What other insights can you take from this exercise?

Make a plan of action. If you need a partner, we’re here to help. By identifying specific steps you can take, one at a time, you set yourself up for success. The biggest mistake you can make is doing nothing.

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