Being an effective leader is not inherent in every person.
Sure, some people are born with “leadership tendencies,” but leadership is a skill as much as anything else — and to be an effective leader, you need to put in the time and practice to effectively inspire and guide those around you.
What most people tend to forget about leadership, however, is that it is not a position. It’s not a title. It’s not a badge, or a crown, or a throne you sit upon with the right to order around others.
It is an opportunity. A chance to turn the whole into something greater than the sum of its parts.
It is common, however, for people who suddenly find themselves in positions of leadership to inevitably abuse that power. And instead of being effective leaders, what they become are tyrants.
Before you put someone like that in power, here’s how you can get a sense of what different people would do with newfound authority:
1. They Do Not Seek First to Understand, but Expect to Be Understood
There is an old quote that says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
People that uphold this naturally are more inclined to be great leaders. They know the value of not only collecting all necessary information before they come to a conclusion, but also the need to make others feel heard.
You cannot effectively lead a team of people if the members of the team feel misunderstood, ignored, or even devalued. And most of the time, those negative feelings arise from one simple mistake: Nobody takes the time to understand them first.
Be careful to watch for people who do not seek first to understand, and yet at the same time expect to be understood.
It is a double standard that breeds animosity in any workplace or team environment.
2. They Blame First and Are Accountable Second
Finding great leaders before they even know they have that ability comes down to the art of listening.
If you are the owner of a company, for example, and you are looking for the next person to promote, it is crucial that you masterfully keep your eyes open for what people say during times of both stress and achievement.
The ones who point the finger instead of taking responsibility you want to watch out for. Whether they realize it or not, they are giving you a glimpse into how they would handle things if they were given a leadership role. When things go wrong, you can bet they wouldn’t be the one in the fire.
At the same time, the people who take responsibility, even for the smallest of things, possess a truly valuable trait for leadership.
They inherently understand the value of owning up to their share of the pie — and that’s something you cannot teach easily.
3. They Don’t Practice What They Preach
This is, bar none, the most blatant personality trait of a poor leader.
If someone (consciously or subconsciously) lives by the phrase, “Do what I say, not what I do,” then you are taking advice from the wrong individual.
People don’t follow a leader because of what that leader preaches. They follow leaders who live and breathe the very example they expect to be upheld. After all, it’s not the words that truly change people and their behavior, but the energy that comes with them. And the only way for a leader’s energy to truly have an impact on others is if it is being spoken with absolute conviction. The kind of conviction that is only possible if leaders are living what they’re preaching.
Keep your eyes peeled for the quiet employee who follows through with exactly what he or she said they were going to do. That’s your leader, right there.
This article first appeared on Medium.