I was talking with someone the other about behavioral issues in the workplace and the conversation flowed, naturally, towards leadership. “How can someone know if they’re even a good leader?” the person asked me and couldn’t have been happier.
I have no doubt that leadership is a discipline that can be taught, learned, and applied within ANY given context. Now, there are certain roles that are “leadership roles” by definition. For example, as a treatment provider, I KNOW that the actions I take within that role are leadership actions that it’s important for me to know and understand various tools within the leadership discipline that I can apply towards desired outcomes. There are times when I’ll have to motivate with some external means. When I do, I know that I am being transactional in my approach. Sometimes, I’ll have to provide step-by-step “recipes” for certain clients to take when they want to get certain things done. When i do provide those recipes, I know I’m being directive. When I seek to inspire a group of people towards change, I am being transformational. Now, because I seek to educate in all that I write, and because I believe that we all have what we need along our path, I do my best to provide information that people can use in their own lives. I seek to be empowering in all of my work.
So, to answer the question, I think someone knows they’re being a “good leader” when he or she is capable of applying the tools of leadership within a given context. Really, there’s never a time when anyone should NOT be leading. We all “lead lives” and therefore, we should all seek to learn the tools of the leadership trade. By my definition, leadership is the contextually appropriate, social distribution of power. Knowing this definition means to know that in any given context there is an appropriate means of sharing power such that a goal can be achieved.
While I realize that many people come into leadership roles without really knowing the tools within the leadership discipline. Some can be successful because of their own traits, such as charisma and intelligence. However, many people who fill leadership roles have no clue how to fulfill the requirements of those roles and they struggle to be successful. But, leadership tools can be learned and there is NEVER a time when leadership tools shouldn’t be applied.
Therefore, to be a good leader: Know the tools and when to use them and realize that we are all leaders and followers within any given context. There’s never a time when leadership tools aren’t relevant.