Are You the Leader You Think You Are?

What makes a lousy leader? That is easy; they do the opposite of what great leaders do. Not so fast. Our biases forget the differences between leadership we agree with and leadership from people we do not like, and those differences rest partly in our individual perspectives. It takes a certain maturity to recognize when effective leadership occurs in opposition to our wants and needs. For the enlightened, it causes frustration, of course, but also garners respect. We have an abundance of frustration with leaders in our life and an absence of respect.

Unfortunately, today we forget leadership is not static; it runs along a continuum between ineffective and effective, defined as accomplishing desired results. These are value-neutral. Results are either achieved or not. What colors the spectrum is a myriad of leadership traits. Depending on your point of view, maybe only one counts, or there could be 101 that you deem essential. The definition of these traits varies depending on your bias, which is where value judgments begin.

Brutal dictators may have effective, albeit chilling, results and a plethora of seemingly positive leadership qualities, but you would be hard-pressed to call them good leaders. Conversely, you may know someone who is beloved, charismatic, honest, and empathetic but ineffective in achieving results. You feel conflicted following them because they are nice but not a leader.

Leadership is not binary; there is a variance between leadership tasks influenced by time, individual experience, risk tolerance, introversion/extroversion, and a host of other conditions. To me, the effective leader is the one that, given multiple variables, attributes and situations, still achieves positive results more often than not.

There are many opinions on the crucial characteristics of an effective leader, and an equal number to identify a weak leader. If you watch cable news, your choice of channel is liable to inform your choice in an acceptable leader. We could use a better system that helps identify and select which leaders to follow. You would think anyone with good judgment could tell instantly, but generally agreed to criteria to evaluate leaders with greater discernment would undoubtedly help.

I have a list of thirty-one observable attributes and behaviors useful in a binary yes/no checklist or on a rating scale which also serves as an excellent list for action planning for those who want to work on leadership development. Take on one attribute each day, and after a month, you cannot help but become a better leader, at least temporarily. Adding five or six to your daily repertoire will solidify those changes over time.

Try it out. Pick a leader, yourself if you want, and rate their observable actions. If you do not know or aren’t sure, be fair when you infer what you can. Then tally the results and see if the leaders meet your initial expectation.

  1. Is this leader approachable and kind to others?
  2. Does this leader make decisions?
  3. Does this leader take initiative?
  4. Does this leader communicate expectations?
  5. Does this leader inspire creativity?
  6. Is this leader accountable for their actions?
  7. Does this leader set their own example?
  8. Does this leader measure performance?
  9. Does this leader reward the efforts of others?
  10. Does this leader give continuous feedback?
  11. Does this leader position team members where they can win?
  12. Is this leader deeply curious?
  13. Does this leader problem solve?
  14. Does this leader possess a positive attitude?
  15. Does this leader value relationships?
  16. Does this leader have a record of success?
  17. Does this leader frequently communicate?
  18. Does this leader demonstrate empathy?
  19. Is this leader flexible as conditions change?
  20. Does this leader embrace and manage change?
  21. Does this leader value customers and end-users?
  22. Does this leader teach others?
  23. Does this leader enjoy their role?
  24. Does this leader share a vision?
  25. Does this leader behave ethically?
  26. Is this leader honest?
  27. Does this leader give credit and take the blame?
  28. Is this leader focused on a goal?
  29. Does this leader create and or nurture a culture?
  30. Does this leader possess courage?
  31. Does this leader serve those they lead?

Take the number of yes responses and divide by 31. If 0% is lousy and 100% is outstanding, plot the leader within the continuum and see if it matches your perceived impression. Any surprises? Are there any behaviors and attributes you would add or replace?

Your actions and decisions should always move you closer to excellent leadership and as far away from poor leadership as you are capable of traveling.

By the way, if you aren’t happy with your scoring results, contact Karl Bimshas Consulting; we would be delighted to see if we can help you improve.

Become a confident, competent leader in your field without becoming a jerk. Boston-bred and California-chilled Karl Bimshas is the leadership consultant, author, and podcast host who collaborates with busy professionals — most often those who are underestimated and underrepresented in leadership roles.

GRADUALLY IMPROVE YOUR LEADERSHIP. The Leadership Development Mind Map Workbook poses 24 questions for you to think about and make adjustments in your leadership life. The printable version is now available!



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Karl Bimshas

Karl Bimshas


Boston-bred and California-chilled Leadership Adviser | Writer | Podcast Host who helps busy professionals who want to manage better and lead well.