What does it mean to lead? Let’s turn to our good friend, Merriam Webster. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, to lead means to “direct the operations, activity, or performance of.” Seems simple enough, right? But to lead can come in many different approaches and styles.
Since starting Wisper Internet from my garage in 2003, I’ve conducted my fair share of research on leading. A company can’t grow without the proper leadership in place, but too often, the leadership conversation is reserved for individuals in high positions within the company. I don’t think there is a secret sauce – that one must possess all the characteristics listed in the numerous books, podcasts, and more on the topic and be in a high-level position to be a leader. Leadership is unique to the individual and is required by employees at all levels.
Managers aren’t the only ones expected to lead. Titles are important, but they aren’t the end all and be all. I expect all of my employees to strive and grow to be a successful leader in their own way. What does that look like? Employees are to lead by example in their role, no matter how big or small. Since leadership can be unique to the person, our team works to put each employee, as long as they demonstrate hard work and dedication, to the position that matches their strengths the best. Then, they have the best chance to reach their full potential as a leader.
Consistency is the key to growth and the same rule applies for leadership. You must choose to be a leader day in and day out. It can be hard. There are some days you’d rather do the bare minimum to get by, but the things worth-wild in life usually aren’t easy. It’s a choice you make.
So how do you define successful leadership for yourself? And where do you currently stand in your definition? Ask yourself the following four questions to effectively measure your leadership skills.
What Attitude Do You Bring?
Attitude is important because life is what you make it. Are you going to choose to look at the glass half full or half empty? Your reaction matters in all situations, no matter how big or small.
I remember driving my kids to swim practice and being cut off by someone. I just slammed on the breaks to avoid a collision and kept driving. My middle child asked in awe, “Wait, aren’t you going to call him an idiot? That’s what mom does.” I decided to make this is a teachable moment. I responded, “Yes, the other car cut me off, but he didn’t hit me. Maybe he was rushing to the hospital for a family member, or maybe he didn’t know he cut me off. Getting upset about it and saying he’s an idiot doesn’t affect anything or change the outcome.” I could have very easily agreed that the person who cut me off was an idiot, but I chose to put myself in the other person’s shoes, instead of making an assumption. If you do well on the small decisions, it makes the big decisions easier.
Do others follow you?
Take a look at your followers. It doesn’t mean you are a good leader or a bad leader. It just means you are a leader. Recognizing that you have followers is one of the first steps towards working to become a great leader.
How do you influence your environment?
The best books I’ve read on leadership are The 5 Levels of Leadership and 360 Degree Leader, both written by John C. Maxwell. In the books, he discusses all things leadership and how to develop your influence on a person. You may not realize it, but despite your title or role, you make an influence one way or another.
Do others look up to you?
Being a leader may not be up to you, but you do have a choice on the type of leader you are going to be. A leader has great responsibilities. Others constantly observe your words and actions. You have to be intentional about the type of leader you choose to be. As a leader, you are expected to be on your a-game 24/7 because you never know when someone is watching. It takes years for a leader to build respect, but it only takes seconds to lose it.
To learn more effective way to measure your leadership, watch this video featuring me, Nathan Stooke – CEO of Wisper Internet.