How to Recognize True Success

I have had my share of them, also.

True Success

Last week I refreshed an article that I wrote several years ago about leadership failure. And, as promised, here is the follow-up dealing with leadership success. Whenever you write an article like the one on failure last week, there is always a significant amount of trepidation about how it will be received. When you consult with other leaders you always wonder what one of them will think when they read one of your articles. You wonder if they think it is about them.

(Why is there suddenly a Carly Simon song playing in my head)?

Well, today, I hope that all of the leaders that I have worked with over the years think this article is about them much more than some may have wondered about last week’s article.

I have written over 360 articles describing, in some way or another, what it takes to be a superior leader in the home, on the job, in a church or volunteers capacity, and in society. Some researchers and authors claim a superior leader possesses certain traits or abilities innately; others say it is all personality, style, and charisma. Still, others maintain it is the behaviors or actions that I take — if I do this, then my followers will do thus — that are crucial to determining success. Regardless of the how and the why, these are some signs that your followers are indeed following you and that you are succeeding as a leader:

Signs of Leadership Success

There is leadership success when the team catches your Vision. Successful leaders have followers that have a clear understanding of your vision and what it means to them as an individual contributor or follower. You have articulated it to them. And they can now articulate it to others. They see it and they own it. There is no ambiguity. If you ask them on an elevator to describe the vision of the organization, they can express it with clarity and passion.

Ask yourself: Am I surrounded by followers who see the vision that I see? 

There is leadership success when the team understands the Mission. Successful leaders have communicated the mission and the team “gets it”. They have “bought in” to the vision. They know why the organization exists in the first place and they have a sense of the historical context of the organization. They can also answer the mission question on an elevator just as effortlessly as they can answer the vision question.

Ask yourself: Am I surrounded by followers who understand why we exist and are committed to the success of the mission?

There is leadership success when the team has a Goal. Successful leaders have followers who understand the goals set for them. They were probably participants in setting the organizational goals and their individual goals. They are both excited and challenged by the goals and they are looking forward to stretching to achieve them.

Ask yourself: Am I surrounded by followers who know what is expected of them and are executing well?

There is leadership success when the team is Confident. Successful leaders have followers who are confident in their leaders and in themselves.  They have been taken through a process of achieving small successes, bigger successes, and then grand successes that have instilled a “We can do this!” attitude.

Ask yourself: Am I surrounded by followers who are assured of their ability and capacity to perform their functions?

There is leadership success when the team is Motivated. Successful leaders have followers who are motivated to do bigger and bigger things. They are probably self-motivated in the base case. But they become increasingly motivated in an atmosphere where there is freedom, autonomy, mutual accountability, and the proper resources to be successful.

Ask yourself: Am I surrounded by followers who are self-starters who don’t need me to watch their every move?

What is the leadership lesson here?

The leadership lesson is that you can easily identify successful leaders by observing their teams when the leader is not around. You will know the leader is strong and successful when you speak with the team and ask them about the vision and mission of the organization and you can close your eyes and imagine that the leader is speaking.

Successful leaders have successful teams. That sounds obvious and it is. And the obverse is equally true. If the team is not succeeding, one of the first places to look is at leadership.

The basic lesson is also that you as the leader/owner/entrepreneur/manager need to “be out there” for your team. You need to continually demonstrate to them why and how you earned the leadership position that you now hold. You need to constantly communicate with them using any of a variety of methods that show them that they are worthy and that you are worthy of being followed.

Make that process positive, personal, and inspiring and you can almost guarantee that your team’s results will be consistent with their efforts.

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Leader -|- Follower -|- Guide

I am the husband of a beautiful and wonderful woman. I am the father of two of the greatest kids on the planet. I am a father-in-law to a great young woman. And I am Papa to three very special grandchildren. In my spare time I am an active blogger and writer. And if there is any time left over, I work with small non-profit organizations and churches on the topics of change management, crisis intervention and leadership development.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.