I have done quite a lot of interviews over the last few years. I lead a creative team that is around 20 people and we are looking for creatives all the time. When I ask people where they see themselves in 5 years, one of the answers I get is, “Well, I really like the thought of leading a team or being in leadership.” My radar goes up. Not because I think I have a potential leader, but because most of the time this person is frustrated with their current situation and can’t figure out how to change it. Their instincts tell them, “If I were in charge, then I could change things.” Now, I know this isn’t true of everyone, but it is true a lot of the time.
Usually the next words out of my mouth are, “Well, leaders are usually leaders before they are given the title.” You are what you are before you’re given any title. If you think you are a leader already, look around and see who is following you. It won’t be because of your title that people follow you, it will be because of your influence. John Maxwell says that, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” Who are you influencing? Will a title help you influence more? Maybe. Sometimes it’s even harder to influence when you have the title.
If you’re looking for a leadership position of some sort. Take a step back and ask yourself these questions:
Why do I think I want to be a leader? Is it because of more money? Is it because of status? Is it because you feel like your 30 years old and should have a better position?
Seriously, ask yourself why you think you want it. None of those are good reasons to become a leader, but at least you will know the truth. Be honest with yourself.
Next, ask yourself these questions:
What would a title allow me to do that I can’t be doing right now? Most of the things you could be doing as a leader are things you could be doing right now. Why aren’t you doing them? Do you need permission? From who?
If you’re waiting for permission to lead, you are not ready to be a leader. If you’re waiting for permission to influence then you are not influencing.
I can tell when someone is a potential leader on my team when things happen like this. They have an idea and they say, “Hey, I was thinking, and I wanted to know how we can do this.” Then we work on this idea a bit together and they learn how to navigate the world they’re in. The next time they come in they say, “Hey, I was thinking and I made a plan, what do you think?” Then, finally they eventually come in and say, “Hey, I was thinking so I made a plan, I got together with a few people and we did it, here is what happened.”
Now we’re talking, and usually that person never said the words, “I think I want to be a leader.” They just are.