I write about leadership all the time. Yet, in the last year or so I've had some people say that I don't write enough about how to be a good leader, instead concentrating on pointing out bad leadership traits.

Chris and I 001

It would be easy for me to counter that by showing them this post talking about 4 steps to being a better leader along with this post giving 3 more steps to becoming a better leader. I could also share this post about how to change to become a good leader and this post giving 9 easy ways to help leadership become easier for anyone who's in the right position.

Of course that would mean that I'd not only want people to go back and read some older posts (though that last one was only written last June), and it would seem as though I were making excuses for not writing anything more specific in over a year (although I talked about 3 leadership concepts, gave 5 pointers, and pontificated about 3 bad management processes in December). We wouldn't want that now would we?

Let's address this dilemma now then.

Something almost everyone knows is that you can't solve issues without knowing if there are any issues to be solved. In this case, what if you're already a good leader and you don't know it?

Here are 4 questions you can ask yourself or pontificate on to help you determine if you're a good leader already, or whether you should start taking steps towards being a better leader. I can't answer these for you based on the criteria, but if you need help you can always ask me and we can go through them... the first time for free. 😀

1. Do your employees come to you with business problems or issues with other employees?

Why is this pertinent? When employees are concentrating on their work they don't have time to get into a lot of pettiness in the workplace. Employees concentrate on their work because you've shown them how much you care about what they're doing and the department as a whole, and when they care as well then that becomes the focus of their time during the work day.

This means that their questions are about work processes, if they have to come to you with questions at all. This is how you want things to work because it's part of what helps your department be the best it can be. If they're coming to you complaining that someone is behaving badly, getting away with things or is being treated better than them, it means you're not paying attention to the important things in the department, thus you're not being a good leader.

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2. Do your employees talk to you about business issues at all?

This is different than the first question because we've taken other personalities out of the equation and placed you in their place. Unless you take a lot of time to train employees, make sure they have all the tools to succeed and have regular meetings, employees who never bring problems to your attention is a bad thing.

This either means they don't care, they're not qualified to determine when things are going wrong, or that they're not comfortable coming to you with any issues they might discover because they're worried about your reaction (or inattention). If you're the only one who's always finding problems within the department, you're not being a good leader.

3. Do employees talk to you at all without your initiating discussion? Do they ever talk in front of you?

Being in a leadership position can feel pretty lonely sometimes. That's because it really is lonely for leaders who need to become better at the process.

Comfortable leaders can talk easily with all employees, even employees who don't report to them. Comfortable employees can ask each other questions or even have brief conversations about last night's TV show without worrying that you're going to punish them for it because you, as a competent leader, have set up processes for evaluating the work they're doing and trained them so you don't have to question their professionalism.

If you find that the only time people talk to you is if you say something, or if every time you walk into a room all conversation ceases... it's probably you needing a bit of leadership training.

4. Were you oblivious to any of the above 3 points before now?

Be honest with yourself and with me on this one. I've met a lot of people in leadership positions over the years who've talked about how bad their employees were for one reason or another. When I ask them about their leadership style they mostly assure me how good they are in doing their work. Yet when I ask them how they get along with employees they'll either answer "okay" or not really have a clue because they hadn't thought about it, being too intent on the daily job routine.

If the only time you ever think about employees is when things are going bad, or you only talk to employees when it's time for their job evaluations, or you're ready to teach them something new or only things that have to do with how they make you look good... you need to become a better leader.