Leadership 101: A Quick Litmus Test for Leaders

The topic of leadership is always one that gets a lot of attention.  Leadership styles, effectiveness of leaders, ability to lead in crisis, leadership in change management, and succession leadership are just one handful of the examples of leadership terms you’ve probably heard at one time or another.  But what are some simple indicators to measure how well you lead or how well other leaders in your business lead?     

Being an effective leader is not easy, but it also is not nearly as complicated as we often make it out to be. The reality is there are some simple steps you can take to measure your current leadership ability and to measure how your leadership team is doing.  But are you (and your team) taking those simple steps?  

If you’re reading this and you own or manage a business, it is safe to say you have already proven your ability to lead at some level.  However, it is the level at which you lead, that greatly influences your business’s ability to grow long term.   

Long-term sustainable growth rarely if ever happens by chance.  With that said, here is a short 3 question quiz to test your current leadership performance.  Challenge those in leadership roles in your business to complete the same quiz.   The results may surprise you.  

Test #1:  On the Same Page

Ask your top 3-5 leaders/manager/employees to list their top 3 priorities for the year.  The owner(s) should do the same.   If they all match, congratulations, you passed.  If they don’t your team is telling you they don’t know what you are expecting them to do.  One of the biggest reasons managers/employees struggle or pass off responsibility is they don’t understand what their senior leaders expect of them.  Get everyone on the same page.

Test #2: Bench Strength (Cross Training)

If something happens to a key employee is there someone (besides yourself) who could step in and seamlessly fill that role?  Depending on the size of your company having depth in different positions can be challenging, but the message is you must constantly be training.  Cross-training is invaluable when unplanned interruptions happen in business.  A simple way to start laying the ground work for this is to have each employee create a step-by-step manual defining what they do in their position.  It creates great opportunities for discussion to improve processes, design a scalable model for growth, and insulate your business from unexpected events. 

Test #3: Empowerment & Autonomy

After your next manager/team meeting, where plans for the day, week, or project are discussed, start a timer and see how long your business can function without you having to provide additional input or make a decision.  The rule is you can’t initiate any communication.  Anything longer than 24 hours and you clearly have delegated some level of decision making duties to your employees/staff.   Depending on your business size this same process can be replicated with department managers and their employees.  

This is a great exercise to help reevaluate spending limits for purchased items, authority to grant warranty or sales discounts, granting employee’s time off, and any number of questions routinely channeled through upper management for approval.  The inability to “let go” is one of the biggest obstacles that prevents a business from being able to grow.  You may think you’re a superhero, but you’re not.  Creating systems and procedures that provide a framework for your team to produce without direct input is a strong indicator of effective leadership in action. 

How did you do? Would you give yourself a passing grade?  As a business owner or manager your ability to lead determines the success of your business.  Obviously, leadership is much more complicated than a 3-question Litmus Test.  But the goal was to give you a snapshot of areas where your business may have holes that need to be addressed and get you thinking about steps you should consider taking to improve your success as an effective leader.  As always, please feel free to share your thought in the space below. 

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach