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To Lead or Not to Lead—Before You Say “Yes,” Read This

Depending on your beliefs, you either believe good leaders are born, or good leaders are made. One thing is for sure; if you don’t like being a leader, you won’t find success as one. I’ve seen many people take leadership roles either as a manager or lead sales rep or senior engineer only to hate every minute of it.
However, I’ve also seen other people become great leaders. They take courses, go to leadership conferences, undergo training under mentors and coaches, and they love every second of their new role. So what makes them different? Why does one person succeed at leadership while another fails?

A myriad of aspects can be the cause of leadership failure, but it boils down to one thing. If they don’t love being a leader, they’ll be miserable every waking moment doing a job they dread.

So, before you accept that new managerial position, think carefully and consider the new role you’ll be playing. Consider its impact and ask yourself these questions.

Before you accept any leadership role, analyze the components of good leadership, and ask if they seem like a natural fit for you. Do you like helping others succeed? Do you like being part of the team as a motivator and accepting the fact that it’s someone else’s turn to shine on a project? Do you give credit where and when credit is due? Do you delegate tasks well? Do you challenge others to be better at their jobs? Do you confront others about their behavior issues? Do you make decisions and have a ‘don’t think about yesterday’ policy, or do you ruminate a little too long on what you could have done differently?  Are you mostly positive regardless of what’s going on around you? Do you inspire others?

Write the questions down and then answer yes or no.  If you find the answers are mostly ‘no,’ then a leadership role may not be for you.  However, if you’ve answered generally ‘yes,’ then consider taking a leadership role out for a spin before accepting.

So, how do I test a leadership role before accepting one?

Leadership roles are in abundance among the community or non-profit organizations. It’s an excellent way to test the waters. As long as you understand that along the way, there will be challenges, miscommunications, and changing priorities, just like any paying job.  Whenever you’re dealing with people, mistakes happen. But remember, it’s not the size of the mistake that matters, but how quickly you bounce back or adjust that makes the difference.  It’s a chance to see what kind of leader you will be, and it’s also something for your resume if you wish to continue taking leadership roles.

Talk to a leader you admire.

Another way to analyze the role of a leader is through interviews with people who already have the job. Of course, there is a right way (and a wrong way) to approach a leader for an interview or a quick chat. One way is through LinkedIn. Be careful, don’t just blindly send a Linkedin message and start firing away questions.  The best way is to take a peek at their profile and see what LinkedIn groups they have joined.  Without being stalkerish (and this is important), join the same group, read the posts and the replies among group participants for a week or so. If you feel you have something of value to offer in a post, do so.  In a week or two, maybe send an internal LinkedIn message to the leader or mentor and ask if they would like to have coffee.  Asking questions face-to-face isn’t a bad thing, as long as you don’t overwhelm them and ask the questions conversationally. Another possibility is asking them if they wouldn’t mind discussing their role as leader over the phone, at a time that is convenient for them.

At the end of the day, don’t lie to yourself.  You either love being a leader, or you don’t.  Sometimes we’re asked to take on a leadership role simply because of longevity or out of necessity. Before you accept a full-time leadership role, ask yourself those tough questions, and determine what truly motivates you. If leadership is a role that feels easy and inspires you, then you’ve found a role you love.  If not, there’s nothing wrong with moving on with a role that’s better suited for you.