How do you know if you are a good leader?  Can the success of a leader be measured?  Is the success of a leader dependent upon their followers?

Understanding what makes a successful leader helps you understand the necessary components of being a good leader.  Success for a leader should be measured in the same way and should be based on the impact on those that followed the leader:

At the end of the journey, was the leader’s impact to those who followed them positive?  Did they accomplish their objectives?  Are the followers better people?  Are they motivated to strive to improve their lives at home, work and in their neighborhood?  Are they inspired to drive beyond what they think is their current capacity? 

Each team needs to start with a leader.  Leaders lead people and inspire or motivate them to want to do their best.  To do that, you need the ability to communicate vision, teach by example, make decisions, make adjustments, accept feedback, provide feedback, encourage, motivate, drive for results and build other leaders.

Personalities may vary and it doesn’t matter if you are a great public speaker, an extrovert or an introvert.  Leaders can come in all shapes and sizes and have a variety of techniques.  What matters is your ability to dedicate yourself to the service of others and set expectations and demonstrate your willingness to do anything in your power to help them succeed.

Too often when we hear the words ‘inspire’ or ‘motivate’ we connect with certain personalities.  However, remember that many of the great leaders use a variety of methods to communicate and inspire.  Sometimes they actually use other people to actually present the vision.  The key is that leading is an action word and implies that you are on a journey from point A to point B and that not only are you going on the journey, but you are leading others on the journey too!  How you go about it can vary from the approaches of other leaders.

Is the ability to lead something that you can develop or are you born with that ability?  My opinion matters only to myself.  What matters to you is your opinion and if you want to be a leader, you can be!  You should be willing to do what is necessary to help other people.  And chances are, if you start with that focus, you will do better than many others out there that call themselves leaders but spend most of their time focusing on themselves than others.

Not everyone wants to be the leader or the person in charge.  That’s ok too, because leaders and every team still need team members and followers.  Some of the best followers are those that understand leadership.  You can still continue to develop leadership characteristics without having to be in charge.  Being a leader among your peers is also valuable to you and the team.  Always be a student of leadership!
I continue to explore the topic of leadership and the measurement of a successful leader.  My metric that I use is that the success of a leader is measured by their 'positive' impact to those who follow-are they better people?  Are they motivated to strive to improve their lives at home, work and in their neighborhood?

Last year I had the opportunity to meet Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.  A humble, peaceful man that was honored by his many followers.   He is one of many examples of people trying to make a positive impact on those around him.  I'm not sure whether you have heard of him, but regardless, it amplifies the point that there are various types of leaders with different personalities, approaches, skills, talents and religious backgrounds that are all measured by the same success criteria:  Do you have followers and are those followers better people for having followed your direction and guidance?  

My own experiences with leadership is centered around service based leadership, where the focus of the leader is on helping other people with genuine motives.  I'll share a couple of experiences that I had that started me down this road of leadership.  Both of these experiences helped me to learn that as we understand our purpose in life and realize the importance of helping others we live a fulfilling life and feel the joy that comes from helping others.  I remember a quote back from Zig Ziglar that went something like this:  "You can only get what you want, If you help enough people get what they want".  

In Boy Scouts I learned that the leader is responsible for the well being of their patrol.  The leader needed to encourage, assist and, most importantly, be a good example to the rest of the troop.  The example part was that you had to do your own work first to develop the skill you were asking the other members of the patrol to develop.  So as I learned knot tying, fire building, first aid, etc I was then in a position to help others learn these skills--but I needed to learn it first, pass it off to my adult leader and then articulate the value of accomplishing that skill.  The greatest sense of accomplishment came to us as Patrol leaders when your entire patrol became advanced in a particular area--although that process started with 'me' learning something, the 'we' became more important than the 'me'.

As I progressed in sports, I was fortunate to be part of a very successful high school football program.  The coaching staff had worked together for many years and had matured an approach that yielded many championships and a very successful program of developing young men.  To some, Practice, Practice, Practice may have appeared to be a waste of time.  Some thought they were just 'gamers' and didn't need to practice.  That's where the separation from "i" and "TEAM" came in.  We needed to walk thru our various roles and assignments.  We needed to understand what each others roles and assignments were.  We needed to understand how it all came together.   We needed to understand the competition and what they would try to accomplish.   We needed to develop our game plan and approach.  We needed to prepare for the unexpected.  Most importantly, we had to be mentally prepared as well as physically prepared.

I learned that a key element to making each practice beneficial was that you needed to understand the goal at hand... Friday night's game.  It wasn't the championship at the end of the season--the focus was on Friday night!   Each practice had key objectives and the next practice would build off what was accomplished the day before.  The coaches would share the objectives with the captains prior to practice so we can assist in meeting objectives.  By the time Friday night came, we executed as planned and we kept our focus on the task at hand... and yes, we went undefeated and won our championship game.

The role of captain was to be a leader.  Not just to work hard but to keep the team focused on the task at hand, whether that was practice or game time.  That involved being positive, confident in your own abilities, encouraging others when they got frustrated.  You also needed to learn what others needed to do--basically to learn every position.  Another  important duty of the captain in gaining the respect of teammates was what happened off the field.  That role of the captain  wasn't something you hung in the locker with your cleats.  It carried with you all the time.  And as you interacted with people it was a reflection on yourself, your team and your coaches. 

These lessons still apply today....   your thoughts?