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[This appeared on LinkedIn Thought Leaders first – on 24 October 2012]

In Australia we have a notion called ‘tall poppy syndrome’ which means that culturally people who have merit are derided by their community. Not very productive really in a country which needs strong, decisive leaders more than ever.

True leadership does not reside in a title or job description – it comes from how we act. In the business I founded RedBalloon.com.au one of our core values is ‘leadership’. This is for every team leader not just those in a management position. Leadership is about being accountable, responsible and believing that “if it’s meant to be it’s up to me.”

So what are the tell tale signs where leadership is lacking – or lagging as the case may be. Here are six things to consider:

  1. Shift in focus or lack of focus.
    Don’t lose sight of what’s important. Leaders know what they are there to do – and they get on and do it, it is a choice you make every day – how and where you spend your time. Leaders don’t rush to the ‘urgent’ and forsake the ‘important’… they are clear that the important must get done – and they focus on it.
  2. Poor Communication
    A lack of focus leads to disorientation, which typically leads to poor communication. If you are a confused and uncertain leader, you may find yourself hiding behind ambiguous communication. Ask yourself – what am I hear to do? And does anyone know? Would it be easier if they did know?
  3. Risk aversion
    Past successes create pressure – you may start to wonder how you can top them. If you find yourself driven by a fear of failure rather than the desire to succeed, ask yourself which is more important: the attempt or the outcome? Prudent leadership is about action not being paralyzed by fear. Often the dance of leadership is two steps forward, one step back.
  4. Ethics Slip
    Your credibility is the result of two aspects:  what you do (competency) and who you are (character). A discrepancy between these creates an integrity problem. Leaders do what they say they are going to do. And they know that their word is their bond. Achieving results can never become more important than the means to their achievement.
  5. Poor Self Management
    Leaders are often perceived – even expected – to be superhuman, running on unlimited energy.  While leadership is invigorating, it is also tiring. Leaders who fail to take care of their physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual needs will struggle to support those around them. Think of having a gauge for each of these four areas of your life—and check them often! When a gauge reaches the “empty” point, make time for refreshment and replenishment. It is vital to your leadership that you continue to grow and develop.
  6. Lost Love
    I often speak about passion – and if your passion becomes an obsession or a chore then it is a warning sign about you as a leader. Paradoxically, the hard work of leadership should be fulfilling and even fun. But when leaders lose sight of the dream that compelled them to accept the responsibility of leadership, they can find themselves working for causes that mean little to them. Ask yourself ‘Do I still love this?’ It is much easier to lead – when you lead because you love it.

No matter where you sit inside an organization or community – we all have the opportunity to participate in a leadership role, but it is worth checking these six indicators – to make sure you really are following your passion.

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