How do I know if leadership is right for me?

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Leadership isn’t for everyone.

And, in my view, we don’t talk about this enough.

It’s often something people feel they should strive for, and discussed as something everyone can do, which can make it very hard to say it’s something you’re not interested in.

If you’ve ever wondered ‘how do I know if leadership is right for me?’, I hope that this blog will to give you some useful insights into exactly what leadership is and the personality traits needed to be a good leader.

It’s been inspired by the excellent book Unleashed by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss, which I would thoroughly recommend for further reading if it’s a topic that you’re interested in.

How do I know if leadership is right for me?

The difference between leadership and management

Firstly, we need to be clear on what a leader is, what a manager is, and the differences between the two.

So often we see managers promoted into roles of leadership, without being equipped with the skills or the development time to really learn what it is to lead.

Looking at the definitions of the two can help you to think about whether leadership is right for you or whether a managerial role is where you will thrive.

Take a look through these definitions of leadership and see how much they resonate with you:

“Leadership is about empowering other people as a result of your presence – and making sure the impact continues in your absence.” Frei and Morriss

“Leadership requires you to be present to the needs, abilities and potential of other people.” Frei and Morriss

“The only definition of leadership is someone who has followers.” Peter Drucker 

“Leadership is the process of motivating other people to act in particular ways in order to achieve specific goals.” Hannagan

“Leadership is the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do it, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives.” Yukl 

The table below also makes some really interesting distinctions between leadership and management, helping us to be clear on the roles of each: 

The ifference between leadership and management

10 signs leadership isn’t for you

Frei and Morriss’ book does a great job of exploring the traits that aren’t compatible with good leadership. The bullet points below are their thoughts on what makes a bad leader. This is an important list to review when you’re considering a step into leadership or if you’re struggling in your leadership role:

  1. What other people experience rarely occurs to you 
  2. You don’t ask very many questions 
  3. The most interesting thing about other people is what they think of you 
  4. You’re constantly updating a catalogue of your own weaknesses, limitations and imperfections 
  5. Other people’s abilities bum you out 
  6. You’re constantly in crisis 
  7. You’re pessimistic about the future 
  8. Reality has become tedious 
  9. Apathy and powerlessness are dominant emotions 
  10. You’re the star of your own show 

 If you’ve considered this list and feel like leadership is still the right path for you, the list below outlines the key qualities I believe good leaders should have.

The qualities of a good leader

These are the things that come up time and time again in the work I do coaching business owners and boards. They’ve also been echoed in the research I’ve been doing around building trust and credibility.

  1. You have to understand people: You have to be curious enough to ask questions, but also know the basics about what makes us tick as human beings, what makes us feel threatened and safe, and how you can address that. Communication and trust are two way, so it is crucial that you take the time to understand people better. Humans are complex and so are organisations. Viewing your organisation as a complex person you need to get to know is a great strategy.  

  2. Remember that when you’re leading, you’re often operating in a team: This podcast episode on leading as a team has some great advice but, above all, it’s important to remember that no one person is an island. I have said that again and again to people in leadership teams whose egos are letting them run away with themselves.

  3. The problems in organisations today are too complex for one person to solve: You need diverse teams to help solve complex problems, so ensure you empower people by making them feel that they belong and that they are listened to. This sounds a lot easier than it is and requires a willingness to listen to everyone around you to help solve some of these trickier problems.

  4. You have to have a growth mindset, where you are open to learning: Your role as a leader will evolve as the group or organisation changes, and being able to adapt to that and the changing needs outside your organisation is key. As leaders we must be aware that we don’t have always have the answers and be prepared to actively seek them out.

  5. Credibility needs your integrity, your intent, your capabilities and your results: All four of these need to be considered when you lead so spend some time making sure you have clarity on them.

  6. Trust and know yourself: The saying ‘fit your oxygen mask first’ exists for a reason. We have to know ourselves to take care of ourselves and we have to trust ourselves before others can trust us.  
  • Be aware of the 13 behaviours that demonstrate trust: This document expands on these further and is great if you want to explore the area of trust in more detail. For me, the most important are: talk straight, clarify expectations and keep commitments.  These are fundamental when it comes to leading people, building relationships and helping with trust.

You can also hear more about this subject on this episode of the Redefining Communications with Jenni Field podcast.

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Join our community

Subscribe to join our community and we’ll be in touch with helpful advice and updates about how we can take your organisation from chaos to calm. Our community gets invited to a quarterly 90-minute Ask Me Anything online session with Jenni Field, as well as early access to events, discounts and research.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.