January 27

How to measure your ability to lead



Last week we reflected on the fact that your ability to lead sets a ceiling on your personal effectiveness and on that of your organisation. Let me share three steps to measure how well your leadership skills are doing.


Leadership is the art of impact … but perhaps we should actually say it is the art of influence.  The reason? Leadership is about people. If we are not influencing others, we are not leading!  So in the HCI Leadership Fan (see diagram above), we see Influence leading to Impact.

This is why leadership is open to all. The person who is influencing others is the leader of an organisation, no matter what his or her official title or position in the hierarchy! (And that’s why leadership in voluntary organisations can be seen as the purest form of leadership: nobody in a voluntary organisation can be forced to get on board.  It has to come from real personal influence, not from the fear of losing your pay check).

The good news is that influence is measurable! Not in precise terms of course, but clearly enough to help you understand the extent of your leadership.  The fundamental question to ask is, quite simple, who is following you?  Write down some names. If you lead a large organisation, perhaps you can write down entire groups or divisions that ‘get it’ and are on-board.  If you try this you might find it quite difficult.  “How do I know who is following me?” you may ask. Well, I find it helpful to think about a few questions.

What is your “leadership universe”?   Who exactly are you trying to lead?  If you are the pastor of a church, that might be your congregation.  If you are a CEO, your company.  An employee, it might be your immediate team or the broader division in which you find yourself.  For me, at work, it is often a cross-functional team involving internal and customer stakeholders.  Note that the immediate answer might not be the most precise. For example, to take the church pastor example, how exactly do you define your ‘congregation’?

Who has given you “permission to lead”?  Within this ‘leadership universe’, some people will have placed themselves intentionally in a place to receive your input.  You may be in a mentoring relationship with them, or they have put themselves at your disposal in some way.  They are people hungry for your investment and leadership.

Who has moved in your direction?  Other people may be so demonstrative in their appreciation of your leadership, but you can see that they have taken a meaningful step towards the future vision. Actions speak louder than words, and by their actions you can detect that they are on-board.

How do you evaluate your ability to influence others and lead an organisation towards change? Let me know!

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About the author 

Richard Medcalf

Strategist, consultant and business leader with 15 years experience in helping companies thrive in an Internet world. Formerly a partner in strategy consultancy Analysys Mason; now at Cisco Systems, developing new strategic partnerships with leading telecoms players.

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