How to Determine if Someone is Actually a Leader

Positions don’t make leaders, leaders make positions. I’ve said that thousands of times in presentations and many other people have said it and written it even more. Still, way too many people assume that their position makes them a leader.

It doesn’t! It doesn’t because people only follow other people, they don’t follow positions and for the record, they don’t follow fancy titles either. Leadership can come from any position in an organization as long as the person in the position is a leader.

The question is, how do you determine if someone is actually a leader.

Many people look at a person to see if they have all of the presumed leadership characteristics; integrity, good judgment, empathy, a caring nature, a positive attitude, good communication skills, and passion are some of the most commonly thought of leadership characteristics we use to measure leaders today.

But many good people can have those characteristics and still not lead. So that’s not always an accurate measure.

The bottom line of leadership is always results. If a person is influencing others in a positive manner to achieve the desired results then they are likely a leader. But you can’t really tell any of that by looking at the leader. If you really want to tell if someone is a leader then don’t look at them, look at the people following them.

The first determinant of leadership is whether or not anyone is actually following. It makes no difference what a person’s title or position is, if no one is following then they aren’t leading. When a person demonstrates that they have the capacity to consistently care about others then they earn the opportunity to lead. When you care about people then and only then will people truly follow you.

Look at the followers to determine if anyone is changing. When a person has the ability to influence the behavior of someone else it’s likely they are a leader. When they change that behavior for the better it is likely they are a good leader, maybe even an Authentic Leader, possibly even an Authentic Servant Leader. It’s important to note here that just because someone is a leader doesn’t automatically mean they are a good leader. History is filled with examples of individual leaders influencing people in a very negative way. Those individuals may meet the technical qualifications to be considered a leader but I sure wouldn’t want them leading me.

To determine if someone is leading look for signs of growth among their followers. True leaders help common people achieve uncommon results. They help people reach their full potential, often potential they didn’t even know they had. Authentic Servant Leaders help their followers become leaders in their own right. Leaders can have short-term success by building a bigger following but long-term success requires building more leaders.

So, if you want to determine if someone is a leader then don’t follow the leader, follow the people they claim to lead, their actions will tell you everything you need to know.

9 thoughts on “How to Determine if Someone is Actually a Leader

  1. Although almost every fiber of my being is fast becoming allergic to the word ‘leader’ after this past year in American politics, I still thought of an important indicator on whether someone is a decent ‘leader’ or not.

    How many damaged people do they leave behind in their ‘wake’?

    Real leaders focus on building up, and only tear down what is no longer working; being careful to consider impact on other human beings. They don’t use vanilla words like ‘collateral damage’ to minimize the impact on human life when they make decisions.

    And if we have any ‘real’ leaders left in Washington; congress, senate, etc….they will do their part to ensure that mentally unstable people will not be allowed to rule, represent, or make decisions for an entire nation. Especially when those decisions can impact the entire WORLD in a negative way.

    The REAL leaders need to stand up. And they need to stand up NOW.

    1. I was just talking to some friends about this … who are the leaders in Washington? How did they let Donald get this far and how in the world could democrat leadership allow a pathological liar lead their party? You only logical conclusion is that there are no leaders in Washington. Ethics are a relic of the past! Either way the election works out we will have someone in the White House that not long ago we would have been totally ashamed of.

      1. That raises a really important point. All of this is exposing gaps in our knowledge as a society…we don’t really know what the protocol and policies are when dealing with this type of situation. Perhaps those in government don’t either. Not making excuses for those in office; simply making an observation that it might be the case, or at least part of the issue.

        There is a protocol to follow for impeaching presidents…there must be something they can use as a guideline to disqualify candidates based on behavior and exhibitions prior to taking office.

        One would think anyway…. If not, it’s time to create a plan and implement it! ASAP!

      2. I’m thinking the protocol is simply following your principles… Oh wait, you might be talking about in the unlikely event that all the people in leadership positions don’t have principles…. kinda like now.

  2. ‘In the unlikely event that all the people in leadership positions don’t have principles’ …

    …may just be our worst nightmare. For some of us anyway! : (

    1. Is it still considered a nightmare if we are actually living it? It’s such a mess and I think it’s only going to get worse. The worst of Hillary’s emails are still to be leaked and who knows what the Donald will do next….it’s like the circus is in town and refuses to leave.

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