Good leaders know they are responsible for creating a culture in the pursuit of common goals through shared values, and while chasing a compelling purpose. 

Even better leaders prioritize the interests of those they are leading over their own. This is no easy task, even for the most accomplished leader. But it works because it inspires people to a higher purpose.

To evaluate and reflect on where you stand against the high bar of leadership, and whether you truly belong in the role, answer four simple questions. 

1. Do you have the communication skills to succeed at a high level?

In my work coaching executives and entrepreneurs, communication issues are common. Too much of it, not enough of it, wrong messages being sent. Whatever form it comes in, poor communication can affect work morale, disengage your employees, and dissatisfy your customers.

Whatever the case, one thing should be crystal clear: Communication, whether interpersonal or organizational, is a necessity for success. In this day and age of corporate scandals and controversies, how leaders communicate with and to others--the type that translates to business results--can be multifaceted, situational, and require a lot of emotional courage.

Author and leadership guru Brian Tracy says, "Your ability to communicate with others will account for fully 85 percent of your success in your business and in your life." 

2. Are you transparent?

Ever been in an important meeting where a topic on the agenda causes tension that you can cut with a knife? Instead of colleagues speaking up to solve an issue, you get poker faces and eyes looking down to avert what nobody wants to deal with.

The same is true when it comes to having those tough conversations to call someone on the carpet. We procrastinate or avoid the confrontation, because it's never pleasant, for example, to tell someone they're not cutting it.

So when people ask me, "What's the secret to great communication?" my usual response baffles some, because it can seem so counterintuitive: "Be radically transparent."

Radical transparency will quell a toxic work culture where people are at odds, the political climate is heavy, and personal egos stifle teams. 

When a leader displays transparency, team members know exactly how they're doing and where they stand with performance. It's a leadership strength that helps build a foundation of trust.

The key is for information to flow freely and quickly among managers and employees--both ways--so expectations are mutually clear and consistent and everyone is on the same page. This eliminates confusion, ambiguity, suspicion, and the element of unpleasant surprise.

3. Do you influence your people by empowering them to succeed?

We've all heard the John Maxwell mantra "leadership is influence." So how exactly do you master the art of influence? Start by first reminding yourself that leadership is not dictating, commanding, or imposing. It is being of service to others--employees first, customers second.

Influence means empowering others to achieve their goals, bringing out the best in people, putting their needs ahead of your own (as a leader), and helping them develop. 

We call this servant leadership--one of the highest platforms to launch you toward influencing others. The behaviors that lead to influence point back to character. It is who you are, not what you do. It is a choice, not a prescribed process or to-do list.

4. Do you have awareness of what keeps your employees engaged?

Smart leaders know what's needed to keep their most talented employees happy and engaged. They spend considerable time developing culture and equipping their tribe to do great work. To that end, good leaders will measure the core elements needed to attract, focus, and keep their most talented employees. It's as simple as asking yourself questions like:

  • Do my employees know what is expected of them?
  • Do my employees have the tools they need to do their work right?
  • Do my employees have the opportunity to do what they do best every day?
  • Have my top performers received recognition or praise for doing good work lately?
  • Do immediate managers, supervisors, or others at work seem to care about employees as people?

If these questions look familiar, it's because Gallup has been using them for more than 30 years as part of its rigorous employee engagement research that best predicts employee and team performance.