Stepping into a leadership role means taking on new responsibilities and setting an example for your team. Whether you're leading a small team within a larger organization or you're stepping out on your own as an entrepreneur, you'll be in charge of things like setting direction, delegating tasks, and creating an environment where your teammates can do their best.
It's a daunting challenge, and without plunging yourself into things headfirst, it's hard to tell whether or not you're truly ready for it.
Fortunately, there are a few ways you'll be able to tell whether or not you're ready to lead:
1. You Can Evaluate Others' Abilities
Think about some of your current co-workers. How would you evaluate them if you had to? Would you say they are overall strong performers, or weak compared to others on your existing team? Think about them individually, and try to assess their strengths and weaknesses. What types of abilities are they great at, and which ones do they struggle with? How could other members of your team make up for those weaknesses?
Being able to objectively analyze workers based on their performance and skill set is a critical part of leadership. If you can quickly and easily identify these traits, you're more likely ready for leadership.
2. You're Decisive
Think about the last few decisions you made, whether they're big decisions, like where to move, or small ones, like where to go out to eat. How did you approach the situation? Did you pick something just to get it over with? Did you evaluate each option and decide as quickly as possible once you had the available information? Did you hem and haw over it until your friends were frustrated with your indecision?
Leaders serve as deciders. They're responsible for making decisions on a near-constant basis, sometimes before all the information is in. You need to make decisions carefully, but you also need to make them firmly and quickly. Keep this in mind when considering your aptitude as a leader.
3. You're Brutally Honest
Start by being honest with yourself. First, ask yourself how often you tell the truth for your own purposes--do you sometimes exaggerate or distort the truth in order to serve your own ends? That could seriously come back to bite you if you do it in a leadership position. Next, ask yourself how often you withhold information for the sake of others. Do you always tell your co-workers they're doing great, even when they aren't?
As a leader, you'll have to be honest--sometimes painfully honest--if you want the best results from your team. Your team needs to trust you without hesitation, and your critically honest feedback is important to developing your team to be the best.
4. You're Ready to Be Accountable for Others' Actions
This is more of a personal question that you should be able to answer quickly. Think of the last mistake you made--did you own up to it, taking full accountability, or did you try and cover it up? As a leader, you'll be on a whole new level of accountability, and it's more important than ever that you take ownership of mistakes and failures.
If you aren't ready for that level of accountability, or if you don't think you can take the heat for somebody else's error, it may not be time to step into a leadership position.
5. People Like You
Do you find it easy to get along with your co-workers, or do most of them seem to avoid you? This can be a hard question to answer, but you'll need to understand your personality type and how your behaviors affect others.
As a leader, you won't have to be everybody's best friend, and there will be times when your teammates strongly disagree with your actions, but on the whole, you need to be someone your teammates both respect and appreciate. They need to feel comfortable coming to you with problems and challenges, and they need to enjoy being on your team. Being a "likable" person is important for those ends.
6. Your Life Is Organized
Think about your personal life. Is your apartment a mess, or is everything in its right place? Do you pay your bills on time, or do you sometimes forget? Do you have a set routine, or do you wake up at a different time every day? The level of organization in your life is important because it's going to dictate how much structure you bring for your team.
Even if you can succeed without an organized structure, your team won't be able to. Organization brings stability and balance to your team, and keeps everybody on the same page. If you aren't able to stay organized in your own life, you may not be ready to set the structural tone for an entire group of other people.
7. You're Passionate in Your Role
This is another personal question that only you can answer. If you're transitioning from your current role to a position of leadership, it's more than likely you'll be serving the same industry, or the same customers, or you'll be working with a similar group of people.
Are you passionate about what you do? As a leader, you'll be motivating a team and encouraging them to work harder for a set of goals or ideals. If you aren't passionate about those goals and ideals, your team is destined to fail.
If you can answer all of these questions with confidence, chances are you're ready to take the helm and lead a team. Just remember, it will take some time to build your experience as a leader and to discover the approach that works best for you and your team. Don't be discouraged if you don't feel comfortable right away. Instead, trust your instincts and adapt to your new environment gradually. In time, you'll find a rhythm that works.