Some say leaders are born. Some say they are made.
To me, a definition of a good leader is an empathetic one – You are a good leader when others say you are.
Trying to define leadership is like trying to define being in love. No one can tell you you’re in love, you just know it. No one, not even you, can tell you you’re a good leader. You just know it. And you know it based on the actions of those you lead.
Simon Sinek said it best when he described leadership like brushing your teeth.
If you go to the dentist twice a year, your teeth will fall out. That’s because going to the dentist doesn’t give you good teeth, but the daily habitual activity of brushing your teeth gets you a healthy smile.
Similarly, the annual performance review, or company picnic, or seminars does not keep the people you lead happy, but the daily connection and relationships you build with them that influences their actions.
If you lead well, your staff and colleagues will show signs that you are a good leader. Yes, you don’t need to be a manager to be a good leader. The key word of being a good leader is “influence”, and you have the power to influence anybody, whether they report to you or not.
Here are three signs you are a great leader:
#1 People come to you for advice
Being approachable is one of the most important qualities we can possess in the workplace. It’s one of the personality traits a hiring manager is subconsciously looking when they interview you.
They want to believe they (and their team) can get along with you.
Approachability is one of the key personality traits of every great leader. And if people come to you for advice, not only can you consider yourself approachable, you can also consider yourself a subject matter expert – a.k.a. “thought leader”.
#2 Others do favours for you
Being a good leader means clearing obstacles for you team. At times, an obstacle is beyond your control, and you’ll have to pull some strings to get it removed.
Great leaders realize this, and call in favours when the time is right.
If they are granted, it means you’ve influenced the person granting you the favour in some way. Maybe you did favours for them. Maybe you’ve been helpful during their meetings. Maybe you took interest in their problems at times and tried to offer a solution or advice. Whatever the reason, you fostered a relationship that allowed them to go the extra mile for you.
Good for you. Great for your team.
#3 Others choose to follow you
This final sign is something I discovered many years ago. My former director was a great boss. I didn’t realize how great until he left the organization, and invited me to join his new branch in London.
And I agreed.
That’s when I had the epiphany of what great leadership is. It’s when you voluntarily choose to follow that person. Not when you have to (like if they are your current manager), but when you choose to.
And that following can happen in many circumstances. You don’t have to leave a company. People can follow you to support new projects. They can follow you to new teams inside the organization. They can follow you to volunteering opportunities.
Lead with empathy…
If you are not directly asked questions about leadership during a job interview, the manager will be indirectly assessing your leadership skills in your answers.
Talking about the impact and influence you have on others will position you as the leader you want to be.