12 Ways to Know If You Are a Leader

You’ve heard it at conferences. You’ve read it in books. Everyone is a leader. Do you believe this? I don’t.

A Group of Business People in a Meeting - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Yuri_Arcurs, Image #12479982

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Yuri_Arcurs

While everyone has the potential to be a leader, most never take up the mantle. They are content to let others take the risk and do the work.

Several years ago, I read a post by Tony Morgan called “10 Easy Ways to Know You’re Not a Leader.” I took that list, and then inverted and expanded it.

Here are twelve ways to know if you are a leader:

  1. You long to make a difference.
  2. You’re discontent and dissatisfied with the status quo.
  3. You’re not waiting on a bigger staff or more resources to accomplish your vision.
  4. Your dreams are so big they seem impossible.
  5. You acknowledge what is but inevitably ask, “What could be?
  6. You realize that you don’t have to be in charge to have significant influence.
  7. You refuse to blame others for your circumstances and take responsibility for finding solutions.
  8. You foster unity by bringing people together and encouraging dialogue.
  9. You are quick to say, “I messed up. Here’s what I am going to do to fix the problem I created.”
  10. You value relationships more than tasks.
  11. You walk your talk—not perfectly but sincerely and intentionally.
  12. You are a learner. You read, listen to podcasts, attend conferences, and ask other leaders lots of questions.

If this sounds like you, congratulations. You are a leader—or well on your way to becoming one. Leadership is not about experience, education, or talent. It’s about the choosing to lead. That’s where it begins.

Question: How else can you know if you are a leader? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

    I agree with all these 12. Yes, it’s true that all have the potential to be leaders but only some pick up the mantle.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I agree, Joe. Leadership is influence, not a title.

  • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com/ Patricia Zell

    I have found that when I take responsibility for messing up, my students do better. Life is not about perfection, but about effort.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I agree, Patricia. Too bad the education system and grades do not put more emphasis on effort.

  • http://www.SiaKnight.com/ Sia Knight

    Great list, very comprehensive.  The only other thing that I might add is that many great leaders are humble and unassuming; they may not have even thought of themselves as leadership material.  In fact, great leaders are sometimes “recruited” from the ranks of great followers and great team players because someone else recognized and appreciated their untapped potential. 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I agree. In fact, the best way to eventually become a great leader is to be a great follower.

    • http://twitter.com/was_wenn Michael Lüdeke

      Sia, I totally agree. Although most of the above points sound like me, I never even though about being a leader myself. I am “only a small employee” and don’t even want to manage staff someday. But then that just might be the difference between managers and leaders, right…?

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       In addressing humility within leadership, John Maxwell commented that leaders don’t think less of themselves. They just think of themselves less.

    • Stanley Schubert

      Sia, you are so right. When I think of a great leader Dick Winters comes to mind. (the character from Band of Brothers). The last words on the HBO series were something like this:

      “When asked by my grandson if I was a hero during the war, I said I don’t know, but I served with a lot of heroes.”

      If you know Dick’s story he was a leader at heart and a hero throughout and yet he was humble to lift up his comrades as heroes.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    All I know is that I’m not crazy about being led. 

    • https://www.bloggoround.com/ Jonathan Thompson

       Then I guess your other two choices are either lead or get out of the way.  :)

      • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

        Exactly. Lead or figure out a way to get yourself fired. And so far, I’ve never ended up leading, that’s for sure.

  • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

    A leader has followers.  Some people claim to be leaders but know one is following.  It is not about the position!  I have mentioned my site a couple of times now, but I recently wrote a post that asks two questions:

    Question 1:  Are sheep without a shepherd still sheep?  Answer:  Yes.Question 2:  Is a shepherd without sheep still a shepherd? Answer: No.I use John 10 as my reference.http://andersonleadershipsolutions.com/whats-a-shepherd-without-sheep/

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree with this. Good distinction.

      • Cor Chmieleski

        I wonder if this list might be more like the DNA that you are likely to find if you were to crack open a leader. But, I understand your point, Dave (a la Maxwell), about leadership being influence. Not everyone with the DNA translates it into great influence. I just wrote on “Taking the Michael Scott out of your leadership” because I’ve seen too many recently display poor relational intelligence. At that point, it doesn’t matter how pure your passion is on several 

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      Great thoughts! Headed over to read the post now!

      • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

        Thanks Jeff.  I appreciate you checking it out.  Leadership is my passion.

    • Jimmyd

      Leaders do get deserted; sheep don’t always follow and sometimes they are goats. But shepherd keeps calling the sheep until some hear and follow. It may only be a few at first. So the lack of followers does not necessarily mean you do not have the qualities to lead. Neither does it mean you are not called to lead. Sheep do get “scattered”.

      • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

        I agree.  Some people will not respond to a leader.  A leader can pull every lever they know but still some sheep will scatter.

        The issue becomes when a MAJORITY of the sheep are not following.  Is that an issue with the sheep or the leader?  

        I learned that if I laid out a strategy to my team in a meeting and a week later few were implementing it as I intended, it was my fault as the communicator not all of their faults as a listener.  

        I find some people in leadership positions can be too quick to blame the followers and not look inward at themselves.

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    Sounds like I’m a leader! Woo hoo! (-=

    Here are a couple of additions to your list:

    You take others under your wing
    You give more than you get
    You join with other leaders to grow each other

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Excellent additions.

  • http://twitter.com/Juliethejarhead Julie Kelleher

    “They are content to let others take the risk and do the work.”

    Leader = good. Not a leader = bad, lazy, fearful.

    Leader = One of the most overused and malleable words of the 21st Century.


    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

      Point well taken. The term has been broadened so much that in many ways it has lost meaning. Now you’ve gotten me thinking about the impact of nearly erasing the leaders vs. follower paradigm… 

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    I would add yesterday’s post on building trust to your list. If people are going to follow you, they need to know they can trust you to have their best interests in mind. There is also the concept of legacy. True leaders build those up around them to carry on generation after generation. They build an organization to outlive themselves, based on bedrock principles.

  • http://www.thegeezergadgetguy.com/ Thad Puckett

    Best. List. Ever.

    Way too many companies/organizations waste immense talent because they don’t develop leaders from within, meaning they don’t attempt to develop everyone to their highest level of leadership ability.  That is a sad fact.

    The sadder fact is, however, that too many people don’t realize they can develop their own leadership potential.  Instead, they remain content to do little, risk little, accomplish little.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Thad. It sounds like an opportunity for both companies and people who should lead.

  • http://happymonday.biz/ Dvargas1013

    Love it. But how about: You are humble enough to know your job is to serve others? And, You work hard to inspire a ‘shared vision’?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I like it!

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       This is my 3rd comment referencing John Maxwell but he likens leadership to being in a race. He notes a true leader never finishes first because he’s too busy inspiring and encouraging others forward. To do that as a leader, you have to wait for those who are trailing behind.

    • Ross Lampert

       Excellent addition! I’m working on rebuilding a volunteer organization’s chapter’s leadership team right now. This is a key question for them: “what’s YOUR vision of what this chapter and leadership team can and should be?” I’ve added it to the questions and steps I’m going to take them through.

  • http://twitter.com/NewEnglandHiker Roy Wallen

    As usual, a useful list that will get added to my toolkit.  Thanks for the reminder.  The only addition I would offer is “You recognize the responsibility to serve rather than be served.”

    One correction, if I may, in the title of Tony Morgan’s article “10 Easy Ways to Know _YOU’RE_ a Leader”.  In this day writing that is rife of grammatical errors, I don’t like playing the role of policeman but believe there are some things that should be addressed.

    Thanks for a useful and thought-provoking post.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for catching that error, Roy. I have now fixed it.

  • Booksbyjanice

    I love the comments about humility (and agree that a good leader is a humble leader), but I also think that those who are driven to lead have a deep “knowing” (in their “knower”) that they are born to this task. To balance that “knowing” with Christlike servanthood is the real challenge. 

  • Linda Sommerville

    Yes!  I can relate to this list!

    I’m up at 4:30 a.m. reading this blog (while working on my own blog) because I’m so excited and motivated to make a difference that I literally can’t sleep.  

    Thankfully that’s not true every night -otherwise I’d just be a burned-out insomniac.  But I think when God stirs leaders up to make a difference, it can sometimes lead to sleepless nights and a sense of urgency.  It also moves us to work with whatever resources we have, rather than waiting for the “ideal” situation.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think this is so true. Thanks.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal


      I agree with your connection between a godly sense of purpose and loss of sleep. I know from past experience somewhere between two and three in the morning seemed to be when He nudged me awake and impressed upon my heart a sense of urgency and prayer.

      I wish you well in your current venture as God guides you into some sleepless nights.

      God bless,

  • Bob Hamp

    POW! Short, concise and captures the heart, mind, and motive of someone who has stepped into their leadership calling. A lot of power is conveyed in a few words. I also like that you included the role of the will: CHOOSE to lead. 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I agree, Bob. Life is all about the choices we make, not what happens to us.

  • Royd Tauro

    I couldn’t agree more. Courage, among other things is also key. Having the ability to stand up and take a risk is what sets leaders apart from mere followers.

  • http://brettcohrs.com Brett

    I like the list.  I would add that if people start to trickle by your office to share ideas they have or things they’ve been learning… even if you have no authority or decision-making power…. you might be a leader.

  • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

    I’ve always felt like “leadership” finds me…

    • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

      I love that one Jason! My husband pointed out to me that I end up leading every group I join.  It “finds” me too. I think other people saw my leadership potential before I did. Now I know I am a leader.

  • Bob Schwartz

    Leaders have followers.  The list above includes admirable qualities, but it misses the obvious point that leaders have a track record of attracting others and of influencing those others to become part of an effort/project/mission.   It’s not difficult to know if you are a leader.  Your life story will tell you.  Can you find examples in your past work, social, athletic or religious activities during which people have voluntarily followed your lead?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That’s an excellent point, Bob. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       Bob, you and I noted the same thing. I just had my first book signing on Saturday and quite a few friends blessed me with their support. Many were church members from the church I served as pastor several years ago. I was both surprised and encouraged to see the fruit of past labors.

    • http://www.justcor.com/ Cor Chmieleski

      I mentioned this in a comment above too. I think this list could be termed the DNA of a leader out of which, hopefully, will spring quality influence.

  • Ms Stephanie Harrington

    I have been following Michael’s blog for about half a year now and this is my first post.

    I have a question about #10: You value relationships more than tasks.
    What is a  good leadership balance between relationships and tasks?  That seems to be my muddiest area.  What are some great ways to integrate the two?  Anyone have experiences they can share?

  • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

    I was going to say, I notice that it doesn’t say that you have a following.  In my position as a Customer Service Rep (which I’ve been in the position about 6 months at this point) since day one I’ve done my best to lead in terms of the way I dress, and the attitude that I carry toward our company, (I don’t mention the company’s name because I don’t wish to get into trouble) our customers and the job in general, including our metrics.  I’ve always said that if  I were a general I would lead the battle from the front, not the back, and I am attempting to do this now even though I’m just a rank and file employee.

    I find it to be sad how people who’ve had more tenure (at least on my team) seem to have such a jaded attitude toward the team manager, the company, and our customers.  Whenever, I’ve tried to teach others its not what happens to you it is how you respond to it they just kinda snort and roll their eyes.

    Don’t get me wrong, I get along with everyone at my job, I don’t have any persecutors, but my coworkers are just… jaded.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      When I was in a mid-level post at Thomas Nelson, I encountered exactly the same thing. It comes from fear. The best way to lead is to keep doing what you are doing. Refuse to criticize management or join in on the cynicism. Just keep showing the way.

      • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

        I appreciate that encouragement, Michael.  I definitely see that it is a fear factor.  Again, thank you!

  • http://www.producewithpassion.com Dan McCoy

    These are awesome and identifiable.   One thing I think is key is do people find you infectious and want to follow you.   I’ve often wondered why people tend to congregate around me at conventions when I get yappin.   I never understood it until I asked someone and they told me because there is a certain passion that comes out when I get excited about something.   ( I am not saying this to pat myself on the back but merely to make a point)   My focus in most of these conversations is to ask a lot of questions of others to get them talking.   It’s cool to see other people come out of their shell in the presence of energetic people.   PS – Just got back from Nashville.   4 Miles East end to West end in just over 8 min/mile.    Man those hills are brutal.   I am a flatlander.

  • http://www.frymonkeys.com Alan Kay

    Great list, thanks. It’s interesting that in an increasingly
    complex and competitive world we can now use these ideas to make a difference.
    Leadership used to be hierarchical and largely one-dimensional.  

  • http://www.frymonkeys.com Alan Kay

    Great list, thanks. It’s interesting that in an increasingly complex and competitive world we can now use these ideas to make a difference. Leadership used to be hierarchical and largely one-dimensional.  

  • http://www.sarahkovac.com Sarah Kovac

    I agree with Dave Anderson… there must be people willing to follow. I think sometimes we can find that people are relating to us as a leader, and we have the choice whether to really accept the role or not. 

  • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

    I’ve worked with many students who felt they had no leadership potential (due to introverted natures, lack of position, etc.) but clearly had servant hearts.

    According to Robert Greenleaf, true leadership “begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”  

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Agreed. Serving is one of the best ways to lead.

  • Mark Goodrich

    wonderful! I love all 12 points best stuff on leadership I have read in a while…
    Id only add one point … that he/she is able to Inspire others to dream and chnage the world. 

    The role of leadership is
    to assist people in finding a cause and purpose to live for (inspiration) and
    to die for.  Then coach those people to
    find the ways that they are best suited to make a world of difference. http://markgoodrich.net/2012/04/16/best-leaders-dont-lead-they-inspire/

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  • http://twitter.com/JodiAman Jodi Lobozzo Aman

    I try to do all of these, you put together a great list!  I love the asking questions. Curiosity is a great problem solving tool! 

  • http://www.beyondthesinnersprayer.wordpress.com/ Barb

    I like this list! It’s much better than my own list which says who are you kidding? You can’t make a difference because a) you’re not a good enough writer b) you don’t have a platform and c) you’re not an on-the-ball person. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Unfortunately, I use that same list, Barb. : )

  • http://exciramedia.com/ Shannon Steffen

    Fully agree with every one of those ways! Brilliant!

    The one that I would add is that you value relationships more than you value money. Sure, we all need to pay our bills but when you go into a relationship with money on the brain, your focus is skewed.

    This is what annoys me most about so many other business professionals. They don’t care about helping others be the best they can be because they cannot pay the big agency prices for those services. This is why I have an hourly rate and do pro-bono speaking/training to non-profit organizations (for their members – job seekers, etc.).

    My favorite client was a women who lost her job and decided to open her own dog training business. She could only pay for an hour of my time and I gave her the most golden strategies during that time. No other SEO/Social Media Strategy consultant/agency would even return her calls. In my mind, when her business becomes more of a success, she will think of me. It’s the rule of “ten-fold”. I don’t do it with the money in mind – I just truly love to help others.

    Thanks again for an awesome post! This blog is one of those pieces of heavenly wisdom that fuels my fire.

  • Kellie Tipton

    I never thought I was a true leader or what I think a leader is…over the years I have been put into a leadership position and I have always thought that it was so funny because I don’t see myself that way.  However, I agree with that entire list and see how I was placed into the position.  I love what I do and I think that makes all the difference when we take ownership.

  • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ jbledsoejr

    Great post!  Relationships over tasks can sometimes get overlooked.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Agreed. Relationships are very important.

  • John Friesen

    Much of this list is about ‘value’ and ‘quality’ as a leader not just being a leader – I started in leadership with many of these traits but over the past 15 years have realized that my role is not to dream but to be sensitive to the prompting of God’s Spirit within me and then simply obey.  As much as I hate that sometimes and wish I could return to the days where I was visioning and dreaming and building teams… now it’s become more of a walk of humble and sometimes humiliating obedience.  Many days I sure wish I wasn’t a leader.  I’m astounded by the number of people I find itching to be leaders… if only they knew :).  Don’t get me wrong – I find great joy in my role and in the people I lead but if it wasn’t appointed to me to do this I likely would run far away from it.

  • http://www.jeubfamily.com/ Chris Jeub

    Spot-on, Michael! I was sort of hesitant to read this list, thinking, “He’s gonna reveal my faults…that I’m not a good leader.” Then I read the list and thought, “Yeah, I can lead!” 

    Very encouraging. Thanks for posting it.

  • http://tcavey.blogspot.com/ TCAvey

    Really insightful and excellent points.   The only thing I would add is a leader is willing to do what many others are not- but that is basically just re-wording what is already said here.

  • https://www.bloggoround.com/ Jonathan Thompson

    I appreciate a leader that actually lives up to the name.  To lead you have to be in front and lead.  Not always physically, but in thought, motive, action, etc.

    I do not like so called leaders who would ask you to do something they would not be willing to do themselves.

    Although I do not agree with his religious beliefs, General George S. Patton was a prime example of this.

    He was a general that actually ran on the battlefield leading his troops while even being hit with a bullet.  He did not care for the generals or officers who would sit in their safe comfortable bunkers, ordering others to do something they would not do.

    General George S. Patton was a true leader, and his victories proved it.

    He once said:  “A piece of spaghetti or a military unit can only be led from the front end.”

    • Jim Martin

      Good point Jonathan.  As a minister, I have to regularly ask myself similar questions as I preach and teach.  “How does my own life stand up next to what I just said?”  “Do I model what I am teaching them?”  “Will I go first?”

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    John Maxwell always says that leadership is influence. Asking yourself the question, “Who am I influencing?” can help you determine if you’re a leader.

    • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson


      I agree with Maxwell but I prefer to take it a step further.  I see leadership as an inherently positive term.  If you start with that view then there are people of influence who are not leaders (Hitler, Stalin, Bin Laden).  

      Leadership is influence in a direction that is morally right and good.  Plain old influence just means you can get people to do stuff you want them to do.  

      I am wary of saying anything is leadership unless there is a moral component to it.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        I agree.  Leadership is influence.  But influence is not necessarily leadership.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       Jeff, glad to see I’m not the only one quoting John Maxwell here. :-)

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman


  • http://bbcjc.com/ Randy Dignan

    Excellent read!!  I will add those questions to my regular self-analysis!  So necessary for me as a leader…  One other question I ask myself is…  Am I leading in a way that only leads followers or leads future leaders…?  I believe the difference is discerning empowering those that follow and not micro-managing too much…  Than ks again for the great read!

  • http://unknownjim.com/ Jim Woods

     I think leaders view things from a long-term perspective more so than a short-term perspective. Otherwise it is easy to feel like a firefighter, putting out the many fires that pop up. 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      The important, but not urgent.

  • http://twitter.com/averageus Lon Hetrick

    Thanks for this. I’d like to add one counter-point that I’ve been thinking about lately. Over the last 10-15 years, the word “leader” has become virtually synonymous with “good,” while the word “follower” is ignored and thus becomes associated with “not good.”

    But, I’d like to suggest that we collectively would fail at everything — e v e r y t h i n g — without good followers.

    In reality, almost everyone has spheres of opportunity to be both a good leader and a good follower. So, I aspire to be a good leader and a good follower in the spheres that are presented to me.

    Be not afraid to lead; be not ashamed to follow. 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I agree, Lon. Following is important. Nobody can lead unless they have been a good follower.

  • http://www.learningalongtheway.com/ Lisa

    I have a tried and true suggestion to your question Michael, “How else can you know if you’re a leader?”  Take steps to show your passion and vision.  If others follow, then you are a leader.  If they don’t,  partner with someone who is a known leader to get your passion and vision moving.

  • RayStrauss

    Michael, another wonderful post!  My staff and I are really looking forward to seeing you at Catalyst tomorrow.  Many of your articles have been extremely useful in our staff meetings. Thanks for all you do!

  • http://www.workyouenjoy.com Adam Rico

    Great list Michael. I would add that often effective leaders have been tested and have sometimes failed in a big way. If they have pressed beyond the failure they become iconic. I.e. Abraham, Moses, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs etc. Love the list!

    • Jim Martin

      Good point Adam.  You are right, good leaders have often been test and have sometimes failed – even in a big way.  So many biblical characters, even people of great faith, at times failed.  This is encouraging to me.

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

     The obvious answer to what else is you have those who follow you. I don’t remember the John Maxwell’s exact quote but the gist was this: if you think you’re a leader and no one’s following, you’re just taking a long walk.

    Mike, I appreciate the list because, when I question my leadership skills, I can see I’m on the right track based on your 12 insights. Thanks.

  • Dapi2ce

    Great, I agree with all

  • Bonnie Clark

    I think leaders require FOCUS.  They can’t be easily distracted.  It is the ability to keep their eyes on the prize – to see the vision clearly – that pushes leaders through difficulties.  And if they can adequately COMMUNICATE this vision – make real to others what is purely conceptual in a leaders mind – then they can inspire others to follow.

  • http://yusewrites.com/ Yuse Lajiminmuhip

    “It’s about the choosing to lead.” That’s the crux of it. The defining characteristic of a leader. Reminds me of FDR and his four-term Presidency.

  • http://www.mirrorministries.org Daphne Delay

    I say this cautiously because of the whole scenario of the “blind leading the blind” but I also believe a leader has followers. There seems to always be a “go-to” person in every group or organization… someone people gravitate towards for advice or wisdom. This is a sign of a leader (or at least one in the making, depending on how they handle it).

  • http://twitter.com/JedidiahJSmith Jedidiah Smith

    Thanks for this great list, Michael.  I will be sharing this with about 10 men that I meet with monthly.  It will be a great help and encouragement as we try to “sharpen” one another in our leadership. – Proverbs 27:17

    • Jim Martin

      This afternoon, I had virtually the same thought.  I, too,  am going to share this list with a group of guys who I meet with monthly as a mentoring group.  I think this list will be helpful.

  • LivewithFlair

    I am growing in the areas of 6 and 10. 

    Could you sometime write more about what it means for a leader to have significant influence without having to be in charge?  This is what I need to learn.  What helped you (0r others) in this area? 

    I love this list!  

  • Denise

    I would add: You have followers: loyal, inspired followers who do better work than they would without you as a leader. 

  • Agatha Nolen

    I too would agree with all 12. The only one I would add is that a Leader cares more about others than about himself. It translates into not only being a team player, but making others feel good about their contributions no matter how small or large.

    • Jim Martin

      Thank you Agatha for your suggestion.  Great point!  A good leader does care more about others than himself/herself.  If a leader is self-focused, it will eventually become apparent to those who follow.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    A good leader can also be a good follower.

    Situations are fluid and if we put aside our egos we can be helpful on either end of the spectrum.

  • http://twitter.com/timage Tim Milburn

    I love lists like this. They serve as evaluative tools to consider one’s willingness to step into the fray of leadership. I’m learning that the first question a person must ask when considering leadership isn’t: do I want to be a leader? Rather, the better question is: do I want to be responsible? That question is woven through many of the points in this list.

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  • Molly Mahoney Matthews

    Leaders can see both sides of a conflict and listens long enough to propose solutions that deliver consensus. 

    I’m new to your blog but find it valuable and “share-able” — many thanks.

    • Jim Martin

      Welcome to Michael’s blog, Molly!  So glad you are already finding it valuable.

  • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

    I believe temperament plays a major part in leadership. Some people are driven, while others are happy to coast. Leaders don’t wait for something to happen. They make it happen.  Great list, Michael.

    • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

      P.S. I believe your list defines a GOOD leader. They are plenty of leaders, in leadership roles, who do not exemplify your list.  Hilter was a leader, and a powerful leader at that.  But he was not a good leader.

  • http://www.UnwillingToSettle.com/ Greg L. Gilbert

    A true leader can recognize and does not miss an opportunity to shut-up.

  • Bill

    Leaders have four major characteristics:  Respect of time. Theirs, yours and others. It is our most precious asset.  Second; integrity. They do what they say. Third; completeness. They finish what they start. Lastly; They always express an attitude of gratitude, in success and failure they stay positive 

    • Jim Martin

      Bill, you have a very good list.  In particular, I appreciate your first one.  Time is one of our most valuable treasures.  Once it is gone, it can not be replaced.  You are right, respecting one another’s time is an important characteristic of good leadership.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kelvin.mulembe Kelvin Kings Mulembe

    I very much agree with the attributes stated. Leadership also has to do with knowing where you want to go even if the picture is incomplete. Having the ability to inspire others by your point of view or your silence on a matter.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       Vision is very important Kelvin!

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    You do the right thing even when no one is watching, you don’t take short cuts.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Great point, Kimanzi!  He who can be trusted with little can be trusted with much.

  • http://www.theemptyinbox.com/ Michael

    And neither age nor title has anything to do with leadership.  I am fifty (and a manager) and have been leading people for many years.  (Some days I’m more successful than others! LOL!)

    My eleven-year-old  son is also a leader.  He’s a sixth-grader and shows great traits of a leader in the classroom and on the playing field.  He has a great attitude and can rally the troops in a major way.

    There’s a big difference between a ‘manager’ and a ‘leader’.  Trust me:  there are lots of managers who are non-leaders.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      So true Michael!  Positional Leadership is one of the lowest levels of leadership.  The position does not make you a leader, and lack of position does not make you a non-leader.  As with your 11-year-old, many leaders start leading way before they are recognized with a position of leadership.

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    I struggle seeing myself as a leader because there is no specific group of people who follow me. Yet, I am consistent with most items on your list . Numbers 9 & 10 are ones where I need to focus and improve. I said this to say that my biggest struggle is seeing myself as a leader even though I am often called one by others. So, my question is, how do I know if I am a leader when I don’t see it in myself? Is this a case where I need to trust more in what others are seeing? I try to do my own thing and not worry about what others think, but maybe I have gone to an extreme with that approach.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       Kari, I would take a look at those around you. Most of us are leaders and never realize it until it’s too late.

      One question I like to ask people is: Are there people you have influence over?

      Everyone has someone that they influence. Whether it be a child, a friend, or a relative. And if you’re influencing someone, you’re leading them.

      • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

        As a parent, I am definitely a leader. Not sure if people view me as a leader in other settings or not. I mean, I’m a deaconess at my church, but I didn’t view that as being because I’m a leader but more so for other reasons. I think it’s more of setting a good example rather than influence or leadership. Maybe they are all wrapped up together. I’m just always surprised when someone includes me in leadership.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Kari, to dovetail on Joe’s response:  Leadership is influence.   You have influence with anyone you interact with on a regular basis.  It usually starts with your family, your friends and your co-workers.  If you are exhibiting the characteristics in the list, you certainly are leading.  

      #10 is particularly hard when you are task oriented.  I have struggled with this myself.  As you decide to make this change the rewards are huge.  People won’t remember what you did, they’ll remember how you made them feel.

      • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

        Changing from being task oriented to being more people oriented is definitely difficult, especially because I am an introvert and kind of shy. Maybe that’s why I struggle with thinking I’m a leader. How can someone who keeps to herself so much be a leader? Maybe it’s a confidence issue, though I am confident in myself.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I would trust more in what others see. I didn’t see it in myself at first either.

      • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

        I am living as if I’m a leader because others have said that I am, so I guess I am trusting what they are saying. Hopefully I’ll see it in myself one of these days.

  • Tony L. Stone

    I believe one knows they are a leader when they have a strong desire to add value to others.

    • Jim Martin

      A leader really should have a vision that goes beyond the self.   I like the way you express this, Tony. 

    • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

      Strong desire and passion. Just hard to tell if people are listening a lot of the time. But, I’ve decided that doesn’t matter. I’m going to do what I know I’m supposed to do regardless.

  • http://runningwithhorses.wordpress.com/ Steve Hawkins

    If you think you’re a leader, look behind you. If no one is following, you’re just taking a walk. — Zig Ziglar

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       That Zig Ziglar is a smart man!

    • Jim Martin

      I’ve always liked this quote.

  • Bryan Aown

    I couldn’t agree more. Leadership is not about your title but your followership…..

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Too true Bryan. Many people rely on the title rather than any actual leadership skills.

  • http://www.blogging24h.com/546/how-to-start-a-blog/ How to start a Blog

    I’m not a leader now but why not in the next 10 years? and 12 ways you listed here have so much knowledge to learn and should be remembered.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      You can start today … remember #6:  
      you don’t have to be in charge to have significant influence.

  • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

    Thanks for this post. I feel like this has affirmed me. I know I sincerely want change and am dissatisfied with the status quo. Thanks for sharing :)

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Daren, that is great! What steps will you be taking to change?

      • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

        Actually a lot has already changed. I feel like I need to put this in a blog. Long story short, I’m in the process of transitioning out of the Church I got saved in looking to take up the next step of leadership in teaching other creative Christians at a University level. Still in the stages of finding my place in it all. Please pray for God’s direction on it all. It’s a very tough season of life but I’ve got the support of friends and family during this time

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

           Will do Daren, prayers are being lifted up.

          • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

            Thank you. I really appreciate that.

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  • http://www.liveitforward.com/ Kent Julian

    LOVE #6 and #7…both are key to real success in life and leadership!

    * You realize that you don’t have to be in charge to have significant influence.
    * You refuse to blame others for your circumstances and take responsibility for finding solutions.  (FYI…W. Clement Stone says E+R=O –> Events +RESPONSE = Outcomes.)

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Nice equation, Kent.  WC Stone is surely correct … we can’t always control Events, but we can always choose our Response which certainly determines the Outcome.

  • Panamasummer

    Thank you for great post.

    The great leaders should possess both outstanding capabilities and character, also with a heart of great loving kindness, with pity, and compassion, they can stimulate other people’s potential capacity.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Excellent description of a leader!

  • Tommie

    This is very encouraging and a great way to bring some adjustment to my mindset every now and then.  Thank you!

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  • http://rise365.com/ Michael Good

    I especially like #3: “You’re not waiting on a bigger staff or more resources to accomplish your vision.”

    It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking we need to wait till things are better before we can make the changes we want to make.

  • Sylvester Brown

    When people continuously ask for your opinion or suggest You to take the leading position, then others see your leadership potential.  Example: when I was working as a regular employee at this job, I used to walk around during the break, telling everyone how good of a job they were doing even if they weren’t doing a good job. Those encouragements boosted everyone I told it to and they became better employees.  When it was time to speak up during meetings, everyone encouraged me to speak up for them. I did and I got let go for being courageous while the supervisor became jealous. That let me know, I had leadership qualities.

  • http://www.love-laugh-learn.com/ Deanna

    I’m excited and a little surprised that I could answer yes to most of these. The one hitting me in the heart recently is, valuing relationships more than tasks – or in my case, relationships more than ideas.  


    Outstanding and inspiring post, Michael.

  • http://www.oxfordleaders.co.uk/ Charles Clayton

    A good list and very helpful. However, I’m not sure that it means you are a leader. It means that you are a visionary, and one with good character too. The missing elements are the ability to motivate others and the ability to develop people – bringing out their full potential as they join you in accomplishing the vision. 

  • Horseranches

    On the points of acknowledging what is real and people not following I would expand by saying that leaders need to listen.  I think if Sitting Bull.  Before the Soiux came into the reservation a general was talking to Sitting Bull and had convinced him that it was best for his tribe to give up.  Even given that Sitting Bull told him that they wouldn’t come now.  The General was frustrated and said,” Your the Chief, just tell them to come in!”  To which Sitting Bull replied, “If I tell my people to do something they don’t want to do and they don’t listen I won’t be Chief anymore.”  Leadership is a two way street.  

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  • http://MaximizingMarriage.com/ Sebs | MaximizingMarriage.com

    Awesome list! Will share this with our church leadership team. Thanks!

  • brookslockwood

    What a simple and effective post. I love it. Sometimes I have shown signs of leadership in my life, but denied the reality due to lack of a title. It’s a great reminder that I don’t need a title.

  • http://www.gailsangle.com Gail

    How do you know if you’re a leader? Simply by seeing if anyone is following you.
    Some people think they are leading but in reality no one respects them enough to value their lead. I wrote about this a while ago at http://gailsangle.com/2011/02/18/leaders-about-face/

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  • Rick Conlow

    We like your 12 points. We especially coach leaders on their focus: self-centered or other-centered. Leaders care about the success of others. Thanks for your insights!

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  • Mohan Radhakrishnan

    Would you recommend some leadership titles ? I am working for a IT company.


    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      If you go to the store on my blog, you will see the top ten books by category. Thanks.

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  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    — You keep asking yourself “is there a better way of doing this?”
    — You keep long term vision in mind and do get bogged down by short term setbacks
    — You are ablways ready to go the extra mile whenever required

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  • Leona

    You help others become leaders along the way – just as you were  helped.

  • http://colebradburn.com/ Cole Bradburn

    I really resonated with this: “You acknowledge what is but inevitably ask, “What could be?””
    That is the hallmark of the visionary leader.  

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  • http://www.liveitforward.com/ Kent Julian

    #7 is E+R=O. Very nice!

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  • http://twitter.com/outdooradventu1 outdooradventurous

    An inspiring article, thank you.  I think 10. is particularly important, as you can only lead if you take people with you.

  • http://www.dental-management.net/ DentalAccountant

    Wow this post is very informative. I can now asses if I am a leader or not. Being a leader is not an easy task but if you choose to lead you need to be ready, am I right?

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  • http://www.ticoandtina.com/ Tico & Tina

    Wow, I fully expected this list to prove that I’m not a leader, since I don’t really like the responsibility of traditional leading. Instead, I was very surprised to find that I identified with every single point! I’ve copied this in a note for myself and will be mulling it over,  thanks Michael!

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  • Psjogren

    You need to be careful. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of approaches, with certain strengths and weaknesses. Not all great leaders need to change the world. Sometimes it is the ability to unlock the productive capacity of those around that makes a great leader.

  • venkata Ramana doddi

    if you see a great potential in many of the people you meet up with.
    If your complaints are less on others
    If you feel like you have choices all across
    If you are somebody who can have a birds eye view.
    If you are at peace with your self.

  • Jonnie Bonnett

    A leader always wants to share knowlege gained through experience and thinks that is a quality that should come naturally form others.

  • Erintarr

    We need to start teaching about these leadership attributes MUCH EARLIER in order to raise up a generation of leaders who can make a difference … http://wp.me/p2CKuv-W

  • Watkinssarena

    Loved it! I can honestly say that I “passed” all of the characteristics listed. Now that’s nice to know. Especially when you’re clergy.

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  • Robert Andrews

    Everyone has leadership ability trapped inside of them. I believe that to be absolutely true. However, some people are meant to manage small groups and some people are meant to manage huge organizations. Not everyone’s leadership ability is the same. We have different spheres of influence. Will everyone step up to the plate? No. You’re absolutely right about that. http://leadershiptranformation.blogspot.com

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  • joni

    But sometimes people give pressure to leaders to give priority to task, I mean,…yeah society want everything to be perfect or at least be in their favor

  • Eng. Sultan Alsasi

    I totally agree with you
    Thanks for the tips

  • shahmoo

    all these points are good but a leader should also have “vision” because without a vision would be like journey without destination.

  • Le-An Alaba

    you can be a leader ,in people system togethere.

  • Twenty

    I totally agree with The Twelve!!! Be true to yourself is a hard thing to deal with in being consistent with integrity. Tunnel vision must be applied on all accounts.

    • confused

      I’m gay, does that make me a bad leader?

  • Morcie

    im sad, i think im not a born leader,,huhuhu,,, i have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11,
    7 – sometimes i blame other especially when they are against the activity or will not cooperate
    8 – i encourage a dialogue but i cannot stand for sarcastic comments of those unsupportive members
    9- i often claim my mistakes but sometimes i regards it as wrong of other person who did not support the activity 100%
    10- this is too personal… i have a co-worker who is my friend before we work in the same office,,, everytime we have activity she opposed my view and also would like to inject her views,,,sometime i hate her and care less our friendship
    12- i read and ask other leaders but not that much…