10 Signs Your Leadership May be All About You

Sometimes we need to do a gut check to make sure that we are all in when it comes to our leadership. It’s a difficult job and therefore it is easy to waver from the required commitment to others. In Frances Frei and Anne Morriss’ book Unleashed, they provide a list of ten warning signs that indicate your leadership may be moving into self-distraction. We have copied the ten signs below verbatim from their book but be sure to read the full book for great insights into leadership in general, and specifically in developing trust.

1. What other people experience rarely occurs to you. 

The path to empowering other people starts with curiosity about what they’re thinking, feeling, and doing. If you find yourself focused primarily on your own experience, then you’re still a healthy distance from the emotional launchpad of leadership.

2. You don’t ask very many questions.

A measurable indicator of your interest in others is the number of questions you ask them, or at least want to ask them. If this isn’t an impulse you feel very often, you may be stuck in your own head. The good news is that the remedy is actionable (get in there, inquiring minds!) and there’s a prize inside for going for it: people tend to become more interesting as you lean learn more about them.

3. The most interesting thing about other people is what they think of you.

We all care what other people think about us. This is a different from caring so much that you’re disinterested in all the other thoughts someone else might be having. If you can’t sustain genuine interest in the ideas of other people, including those ideas that have nothing to do with you, then you haven’t yet earned the right to lead period.

4. You’re constantly updating the catalogue of your own weaknesses, limitations, and imperfections.

A loud inner critic can be a major distraction from the practice of leadership. Take our friend Ariana Huffington’s advice and evict that obnoxious roommate from inside your head, the one spinning negative stories about you out of dubious data.

5. Other people’s abilities bum you out.

When you’re in an effective leadership state, the strengths and potential of the people around you become your greatest assets. If your primary response to other people’s capabilities is to feel worse about your own, then you probably need a healthy timeout from the leadership path. Do what it takes to nourish yourself (and stay off Instagram).

6. You’re constantly in crisis.

The human experience is fraught with moments that require immediate unwavering attention to self – also known as crises. There’s no quota for how many of these you get to have in a month, a year, or lifetime, but if your numbers are way above your peers, then you’re probably not well positioned to lead them.

7. You’re pessimistic about the future.

Leadership is built on the assumption that tomorrow can be better than today. If you have a hard time buying into such a romantic idea, if you dismiss it along with rainbows and unicorns, then we suggest you try your hand at something else. Despair is the opposite of leadership.

8. Reality has become tedious.

When you are regularly practicing leadership, the world is a pretty magical place, filled with progress to be made and human potential to be unleashed. It’s a red flag if it’s been a while since you’ve felt a sense of wonder at the unlimited possibilities around you.

9. Apathy and powerlessness are dominant emotions.

You may have come by these feelings very honestly, but leadership asks you to be in touch with your own agency and ability to influence your surroundings. It asks you to know your own power so – among other things – you can introduce other people to theirs. If you’re not feeling it, for whatever reason, and you won’t be able to pull this off.

10. You’re the star of your own show.

If this sentence can be used to describe the way you move through the world, and you’re not in leadership game. Period. Those of us hungry for leadership will eventually change the channel.

Source: Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You; Frances Frei & Anne Morris; HBR Press, 2020