Whatever the context -- sports, business, community or whatever -- leadership implies a team situation with inspiring performances by an individual. The best way to test your leadership ability is to check to see if anyone is following you. Without followers there is no leadership, to be a leader you must earn the right to have followers.

             Even though some people think so, leadership is not determined by title or position; nor is leadership determined by who you know. Leadership isn’t even determined by what you know. Leadership is comprised of sound decision-making and effective actions. It’s what you actually do, and how you do it, that determines your leadership ability. But it isn’t just the number of things you do that determines whether you’re a leader, rather it’s the number of things you do well. Quality always counts more than quantity in determining effective leadership. You can demonstrate leadership skills in any situation regardless of what your position or title might be. When you do so consistently you will be considered a leader; and the view is always better when you’re the lead dog.

             Leaders have the ability to develop other people’s skills and talents, and they are always willing to take the time to do so. Leaders are approachable and easy to talk to, always giving the impression that they have lots of time to spare. Even when they’re over-taxed themselves, leaders will never brush off a person seeking advice or help. A true leader, if not able to deal with the situation right away, will explain why and arrange to deal with it as soon as possible.

             Leaders are able to get average people to do superior work by understanding how other people feel, knowing what motivates them, and always showing consideration for other people’s feelings. They remember that results are achieved through reason and persuasion, not by ordering people around. As a result, people tend to try harder for effective leaders. It’s the old “rope principle.” Pull a rope and it will follow you, push it and it will curl up and go nowhere; the same applies to leading people. Another thing that leaders never forget is that even people who don’t mind sharing credit will still want to receive their fair share. Leaders always make sure that they do.

             Effective leaders are able to help a group of people reach their collective potential by inspiring them to make the most of themselves. Truly effective leadership produces new leaders as well as followers. One of the important earmarks of this leadership characteristic is the effective delegation of responsibility. Effective leaders know that the best way to delegate responsibility is to let people know that you trust them. People won’t believe that you really trust them if you try to control everything all the time. Micro-managers are seldom perceived as leaders. Although to be a leader you have to help people do a better job, you should never do it for them. Effective leaders act like coaches, not quarterbacks; they teach rather than do and always tell people how they’re doing before being asked. Leaders not only have to be self-confident, they also have to have the ability to inspire confidence in others.

             If you want to be an effective leader you have to become adept at dealing with problems. You can’t worry too much about the possible negative results of your decisions; if you do then you should be taking orders, not giving them. The burdens of leadership will always include being unpopular from time to time; leadership means doing what it is necessary to do, not simply doing what is popular. As difficult as it may be at times, to be an effective leader you have to keep your preconceptions in check and your personal likes and dislikes out of your decisions.

             Keeping cool in emergencies and being able to make difficult things seem simple rather than making simple things seem difficult, are earmarks of leadership. Leaders come up with solutions that are easily understood.

             Leaders are good listeners and don’t hesitate to ask questions that non-leaders would likely avoid asking, such as whether an employee is having a personal problem that the leader might be able to help with.

             Leaders also recognize that the occasional disappointment is the price of progress, so they’re able to take a “no” answer without becoming discouraged and can deal with disagreement without losing their tempers. They also don’t equate disagreement with disloyalty, they’re able to diplomatically turn a “why” situation into “why not?”

             When the effective leader’s work is done, everyone says, “We did it!”