How can you tell if you are really showing leadership? It depends on how you define it. Unless you get feedback from people you are managing, it is hard to know how you are doing in a managerial role. But this is only one way of looking at leadership.
You can also define leadership as promoting new or better ways of doing things and being able to convince your target audience to buy your idea. This is the sort of leadership that Martin Luther King showed to the US government when his protests against segregation on buses led the US Supreme Court to outlaw such segregation. This form of leadership had nothing to do with King managing any part of the US government. Leadership really means showing the way, helping people see a better way of doing things, either by setting an example or by actively promoting it.
So, how can you keep score on your own leadership efforts? And, why should you bother? The main reason to do it is that your confidence could get a great boost and it might encourage you to show even more leadership. You probably show leadership in at least a dozen small ways every day without being aware of it. We can easily overlook the seemingly little things we do every day and not realize that we have had an impact on people around us. Things that seem obvious or easy for us, we discount. We don’t see such things as a big deal, but they might be new and difficult for others. So, if you don’t keep score, you may be showing more leadership than you realize, but think you aren’t really showing any at all. If this is you, maybe you’re selling yourself short.
To set up your leadership scorecard, categorize your leadership attempts from small to large scale as follows:
1. Convincing a subordinate to do something different.
2. Influencing a peer to think or act differently.
3. Selling a new idea to your boss.
4. Getting your department to change a small but significant process.
5. Convincing your department to adopt a larger scale change.
6. Influencing your whole organization to shift direction.
7. Convincing your organization to take a major change in direction.
You may be able to think of some other categories. Keep track of how many times each week you show leadership at each of these levels. The benefit of this list is that it encourages you to start small. If at the end of the week you have shown leadership successfully a few dozen times at the first two or three levels, you just might be confident enough to raise your game to a higher level.
If you’re not sure if your leadership attempts were successful, check back in a few days and ask the people you tried to influence if they made the change and what they see as the benefits of the switch. Getting the other person to articulate the benefits as they see them is itself a great leadership tactic. If they weren’t quite sold before, getting them to state the benefits might tip them over the edge. If you find keeping score a great motivator for you, try asking them how helpful your suggestion was on a scale of 1 to 10.
There is solid evidence that personal change occurs most readily if we measure our success. So, you may think it’s a bit contrived or self-indulgent to keep track of your successes in this way, but it just might be a great way to help you lift your game to achieve a broader leadership impact, one that moves a larger part of your organization toward more significant changes over time. As you gradually raise the stakes, you should find yourself getting more attention and respect.
The more you stick your neck out, however, the greater the risk, so be sure to get key stakeholders on side before you try to promote anything really large scale or radical. You don’t need to go for broke. Try your ideas out on receptive audiences first. Ask them who else might benefit from your idea. Enlist their support by asking them to spread the word. Ask yourself who has most at stake to preserve the status quo. Sound these people out quietly before you go public on a major change initiative.
The old saying: What gets measured, gets done applies to leadership. If you don’t measure, you probably won’t achieve your full leadership potential.