Leadership

7 questions to tell if you're leadership material

Is it possible to tell, before you accept a promotion, if you're cut out for leadership material? Executive leadership coach John M McKee says, "Yes it is." In this article he provides 7 questions to ask yourself before you take that new job.

Dear Coach John,

Is it possible to know -- before I make the decision -- if I'd enjoy being a leader? I think my boss is about to ask me to take over a team in another department. I never thought this would happen to me, and while I'm excited about the idea, I'm also worried that I may not be cut out for this kind of role. Any advice?

Signed, Barry in Buffalo

Congratulations for this opportunity, Barry. And I salute you for giving serious thought about this issue before you take the job offer. While it may never be possible for anyone to know 100% before making an important decision; here are a few questions I noodle with clients when they're considering a promotion.

If any of these hit home for you personally, the chances are that you may not be cut out to be the head honcho:

1. Do you like to be liked? Great leaders do what needs to be done, even if that means telling team members to do things that are going to disappoint or make them cranky. If this makes your palms sweat, don't accept the job. 2. Do you value democratic styles of management with decisions made by consensus? If so, a leadership role may cause you acid indigestion. All groups, sooner or later, will want their boss to "act like one." And your own boss is going to expect you to stand up and make tough decisions. Do you really want to change your core values for this job? 3. Do tough conversations cause you to lose sleep? Sooner or later every leader has to deal with issues or hassles affecting one or more team members. Personal appearances, annual reviews, and things like changes in company policy can be tough for anyone, but if you know you often lose sleep over direct confrontations or difficult situations, then being the boss is not a good fit for you. 4. Do you understand that the definition of middle management means being stuck between the big boss and the team? The ones on the organization chart who are above will have expectations, so will the ones below you. Both groups will be demanding and never give you enough credit for your past accomplishments. How does that feel to you? 5. Does your stomach turn over before you have to stand up and talk in meetings? How do you feel about having a verbal duel with someone else in front of a group? If you choke up when asked to state your opinion publicly, then you probably don't want to be in leadership. 6. Do you accept that too much empathy might be a bad thing? If that doesn't make any sense, you are probably a wonderful human being but destined to be a challenged leader. Sooner or later, all leaders have to say and/or do things that aren't nice, are unfair, and are not reasonable.

Finally -- and this may be the single biggest deal breaker of all --

7. Is "balance" an important part of your life? Most leaders will admit that their personal life is often put behind their professional one. If you won't or can't accept that there will probably be occasions where the job impacts the other sides of your life, then you're likely to get tripped up.

Here's to Your Future.

John

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

18 comments
maclovin
maclovin

Most people are unprepared to be management, and don't know how to do these things, which is why people get away with so much as well!

porty1
porty1

I think the advice is far to black and white and may dscourage people who would make great leaders, while I do not disagree with the 7 headings you can learn some of these skills and build your confidence up so you can present and hold your own in a discussion etc. I used to be very nervous but now hold my own with directors and the CEO's alike, I am a different person with new skills after my 6 years leading teams of one sort or another. You may have to give bad news or make tough decisons but you can be a good leader in how you deliver it and then support your staff, it doesn't have to be hard nosed approach. A good leader will also say no to their bosses if it is the correct thing and be able to reason this out with the manager, you may get over ruled but you have to do what is best and right which takes more strength. Your discription is of what I call the old school boss approach do as I say, this is archaic. Get you team to follow you by using many tools as everyone is different.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Can you get people to follow you. Whipping from behind doesn't count. If the answer is no, don't bother with 1 - 7

ANARCHYMM
ANARCHYMM

Lead where? To point out the differences between management and leadership is helpful, but over-emphasizing the line between the two is unrealistic. Both need to come together for a successful team. And please consider that your team member consist of many different personalities that require individual "handling". You need to be fit to see, understand and address the different personality needs.

jkameleon
jkameleon

1. Being liked by the coworkers? Yeeech... What a perverse idea. 2. Concensus? Another weird idea. 3. Conversations generally make me sleepy, especially if somebody else is doing the talking. 4. Normal. 5. Nope. Actually, sometimes I like to squabble in the meetings. It breaks the monotony. 6. Any amount of emphaty in the workplace is a bad thing. 7. In IT, you are expected to put personal life behind even if you are not a manager. Ummmm... Somehow I agree on all points, but I got a feeling I'll never become a manager, because my character is too managerish for that.

lesam
lesam

" A leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don't want to do, and like it " Harry S. Truman: Memoirs, 1955

CoffeeKerri
CoffeeKerri

Although it may be black and white, it points out the hard point of leading people and managing their work. You have to call people out on poor performance. You have to stand up and speak out for your team. Although democracy is great, sometimes the decision has to be made by the leader that some will think is great and ohers won't. One has to accept a leadership role knowing all these *will* happen and the individual *will* have to respond. If one does not expect them, they'll be blindsided when it happens. These responses will make or break the leader. From my experience, only 2 and half years into middle management, these questions highlight the tough issues that one has to deal with and cannot delegate.

lesam
lesam

The successful manager with no real leadership skills will almost certainly be a Transactional. Transactional management is based in contingency, in that reward or punishment is contingent upon performance. No leading required, personnel are just another resource to be used to achieve the result. They perform or depart just as a defective part is binned and disposed of. There are some scenarios still where Transactionals operate quite successfully

lesam
lesam

Leadership and Management are two traits that are often confused one for the other. A good manager may not have leadership skills, a good leader will always have management skills.

Abhi_Paradox
Abhi_Paradox

A lot of people believe that Leadership is about being able to show that you are Boss & being able to push & squeeze. That is quite wrong. Leadership is about being able to derive respect & motivate people. This comes through virtues that make other people look up to you like competency in your area of specialization, being objective & logical, honesty, being fair, being impartial, being able to say NO when needed (both to your juniors & specially to bosses, the later is one where most people falter), ability to keep a cool head & think logically when times are tough. Being a Leader is not the same as being a Boss.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

One is not the other, Anyone who considers a person just another resource, couldn't lead them to a large party, full of potential sex partners and other vices with a large sum of money guranteed on entry. I might turn up, but it will be bugger all to do with how persuasive this person is.

mmoran
mmoran

Although "leadership" and "management" indeed do not necessarily equate, a "good" manager *must* also be a leader. We've all chafed under managers who weren't... would anyone consider them to be "good" in the sense of being someone for whom you'd want to work for one minute longer than absolutely necessary? "Management," in my view, is an objective skill set while "leadership" is more of a personal quality, albeit one needing some specific and learnable skills in order to be most effectively expressed. In my experience, a person can be an effective and respected leader while having zero taste or talent for management. People's Exhibit #1: Myself. My own manager once told me explicitly that my co-workers regarded me as a leader. Unfortunately, he did so in the context of persuading me to accept what would be a brief and highly unsatisfactory foray into management. In retrospect not exactly surprising, since to one degree or another my answer to six of the seven questions is "yes." (As a trainer, I'd be in a tough spot if I had a problem with #5...) The seven questions are excellent for the purpose as written, but two more should be added: (8) Are you willing to give the credit to your team when things go right, and accept the blame for yourself when they don't? (9) What gives you more satisfaction- seeing people follow your orders, or seeing them take ownership of their jobs with your support and encouragement? Get these wrong, and my advice is to do yourself, your organization, and your potential reports a favor- stay out of management.

mroman
mroman

Managers do things right. Leaders do the right thing.

mckinnej
mckinnej

Manage things...lead people. As you have indicated, someone who is an excellent manager may be an awful leader. The reverse is also true, but less likely. (Think of someone with a lot of charisma, but little organizational skills.)

amkrap
amkrap

Well said. I couldn't agree more.

kwilson
kwilson

As I read these 7 questions I was disturbed to think that this is how people are assessing leadership. As you point out, this may tell you if you can be a "boss" but if you want to look for leadership, I'd look more toward the book "Good to Great" and their description of a leader as combining "personal humility and professional will". Anyone can become calloused enough to be the boss described by these questions but it takes something special to be a leader.

lesam
lesam

The ( potential ) difference is that the Charismatic Leader will have acquired a good manager/s to look after the managerial detail because he / she would know their own weakness.

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