Many years ago our family hosted a foreign exchange student. On her application, she said she knew how to drive a car. That was important to us as she’d help shuttle our two young boys to school and other events in exchange for her living expenses.
What we didn’t know is that she didn’t know how to drive very well. She was awful. She’d driven only a few times in a country where traffic conditions were very different. While she had driven a car, she needed much coaching and practice with my wife or me to become proficient and safe.
With that in mind, how do you respond to the question, “Do you know how to lead?”
Or if you’re hiring someone for your team, is it enough to ask them if they know how to lead?
For yourself or a potential job candidate, there are three better questions that provide a clearer picture:
1. How well can you lead?
Few would aspire to be a marginal or mediocre leader. Even these leaders, technically, “can lead.” They just don’t lead well.
Go beyond experience and consider results. What evidence is there of effective leadership? How do team members evaluate the leader’s abilities?
2. Why do you lead?
When I ask someone why they want to learn to lead, the response is often, “It will enable me to earn more money and become promotable.” While that might be true, it isn’t a very good reason.
Great leadership is about making a difference and positively impacting others. And if you don’t have a higher purpose that career advancement, you’ll likely lack motivation when you bump up against challenges and problems.
You won’t exert the effort to become a better leader because your boss or I told you to do it. You will become a better leader when you desire to become one. And to be more than just “able to lead,” you’ll need a higher purpose.
3. How are you becoming a better leader?
Experience won’t make you a better leader, but learning from that experience–both successes and failures–will if you pay attention to and learn the lessons.
Here’s the point of the matter:
Anyone can lead if they choose. But limited experience (“time in the seat” of the leadership machine) will put you on par with our exchange student. She wasn’t lying, but she wasn’t completely telling the truth when she said she knew how to drive.
Take consistent action so that the next time you’re posed the question, “Do you know how to lead?” you can answer affirmatively and with confidence.
Mark Sanborn is an award winning speaker and Leadership Expert in Residence at High Point University, the Premier Life Skills University. For more information about his work, visit www.marksanborn.com.
For a free assessment and information about The Classic Fred Factor online training and a unique opportunity to license the training, go to www.FredFactor.com.