Quiz: What Is Your Leadership Potential?

“Leadership is nothing more or nothing less than pure influence.”
John Maxwell

For hundreds of years, there’s been a debate raging across the world. People have been demanding the answer to one question. They want to know … indeed, they need to know … if leaders are born or made. Is leadership a matter of having the right genes or the right education?

Well, after decades of research and thousands of published research studies, the answer is a definitive “yes.” In other words, some people are “more inclined” to exhibit leadership behavior; it comes to them more naturally. However, everybody can learn to become a more effective leader.

That’s why I tell people in my “Journey to the Extraordinary” experience, that “Everyone leads. The problem is great strategies fail without great leaders at every level.” And from personal experience, I’ve seen hundreds of people “become” very effective leaders who did not initially appear to have very much potential.

That’s exactly why I offer my keynote and seminar on “The Leadership Payoff.” Whether you’re an hourly employee, a supervisor, manager, director, Vice President, CEO, pastor, or parent, you CAN become a MUCH MORE effective leader. You CAN exert more influence and you CAN make a bigger, better difference in your organization, your family, or even your world.

To get you started, let me give you A LEADERSHIP MEASURING STICK. I’ve discovered that highly effective leaders DO 9 things. I’ll describe those 9 behaviors and then have you rate your own performance in each of those behaviors. Rate yourself on a 1 to 10 scale, where 10 is Excellent, 5 is Average, and 1 is Failure.

1. Action orientation

As an influencer of people, you stay away from weak-kneed questions such as “Can you do this?” and assertively ask others “How are we going to get this done?”

You personally take action, and you refuse to make excuses for inaction. You also delegate actions that others must take and relentlessly ensure that the action is implemented.

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

2. Change maker

Perhaps you’ve heard me say that “leaders are readers.” But they don’t just read for reading’s sake. They read to learn so they can get new ideas on how to change things for the better. When I coach executives or speak to audiences, I might ask what they’ve read recently to improve themselves as a person, as a professional, or as a leader. But then I tend to take them off guard when I say, “I don’t care what you’ve read. I want to know what you’ve done with what you’ve learned.”

You create, initiate, and shape change rather than passively accept the “status quo.” You challenge others when you hear “We’ve never done it that way before.”

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

3. Opportunity grabber

As a leader, you’re always looking for opportunities to develop the leadership potential you see in others. Indeed, effective leaders are more focused on developing talent than they are on acquiring self-oriented power. As one of the most influential family therapists of the 20th century, Virginia Satir taught, “Power can be used for growth rather than who has the right to do what to whom and when.”

You seize the opportunities that are available in your present situation at the same time you invest in future opportunities.

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

4. Results focused

Without exception, exceptional leaders are “results focused” because they’re goal setters. They do more than wish upon a star and wait for the law of attraction to give everything they want and need.

No, absolutely not! While leaders understand and use the power of attraction, they DO more than that. They write down their goals … because they know a WRITTEN goal is hundreds of times more likely to be achieved than a goal merely thought about.

They write out their goals using the SMART formula … where S = specific, M = measurable, A = achievable, R = realistic, and T = time oriented.

As a leader you care more about getting things done than who gets the credit. You can flourish in an environment with or without boundaries and silos.

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

5. Performance rewarder

You evaluate people and place people in positions based solely on their strengths, performance, and potential rather than seniority or political correctness.

In particular, problem solvers should always be rewarded. If you think for a moment, a lot of your success today is because someone solved problems for you yesterday. Your parents were your first problem solvers. They taught you how to eat and walk, and they disciplined you when you needed to learn a new lesson. Your boss is a present-day problem solver. He/she recognized your gift and then gave you a check for using your gifts.

Your life is surrounded by problem solvers. And leaders never overlook this. They never take it lightly. Whether it is the maid that cleans your office, the mechanic that repairs your car, or the cheerful employee who treats your customers with respect … all these people … and many more … are helping solve the problems in your life. Reward them.

Just remember: Anything unrecognized becomes uncelebrated. Anything uncelebrated becomes unrewarded. Anything unrewarded will exit your life.

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

6. Positive thinker

W. Clement Stone was one of the most prolific writers on positive thinking as well as the CEO of one of the most successful insurance companies in the United States. He lived to the age of 100, but he was always telling his sales agents, “The sale is contingent upon the attitude of the salesperson, not the attitude of the prospect.”

In other words, your leadership effectiveness has more to do with your attitude towards your followers than it does their initial willingness to buy or follow.

Or as Billy Cunningham said, “If you want to motivate people, show them first how highly motivated you are. I always want people to work with me, not for me.”

You keep a positive attitude, refusing to give up, seeking out the opportunity that lurks in every situation. And as an effective leader with a positive attitude, you realize things are never as bad as they seem.

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

7. Vision driver

When I was conducting ELF (the “Executive Leadership Forum” for the Associated General Contractors of America), one participant explained this quality very well. Lou Briganti said, “If trust is the emotional bond that binds followers to leaders, the courage to stand up for a vision and specific values when both are under attack is the inspirational mortar that forms the bond.”

Put another way, as the leader drives the vision and defends the vision, he/she builds the team and builds the organization.

However, the effective leader balances future vision with present-day reality. He’s still detail-oriented enough to know whether the objectives are being met and whether or not you’re on the right course. He’s not, as some “religious” people are known to be … “so heavenly minded they’re no earthly good.”

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

8. Mistake processor

You seek consensus, but if you don’t get it, you’re not paralyzed by the lack of support given by others. If it turns out your action was a mistake, you learn from it. And you are tolerant of others who make a mistake as long as they learn from it. (As I mentioned in a recent keynote at Merck, anyone who has gone or is going through some tough times, “I don’t care what you’ve done BUT what you’ve learned.”)

One extra thought. In the process of dealing with the mistakes made by you or others, you avoid using the “they” word and you stop others from talking about “they.” As soon as the word “they” is utilized, you describe yourself as a victim, such as “They failed to get the bid in on time,” which means “we” are stuck with the circumstances, and “we” are not responsible for what goes wrong around this place.

That is NOT leadership. That is a “poor-me” syndrome at work. Instead, when you hear “they” language, turn it into a “we” statement, such as “We failed to communicate clearly and firmly about what was needed for those bids and when they had to be done. How can we fix that so it doesn’t happen again?”

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10

9. Communicator

You communicate constantly. You’re always influencing, encouraging, critiquing, and listening.

And of all those skills, listening may be the most important. That’s why everyone from Jesus, to St. Francis of Assisi, to Stephen Covey has told us to “seek to understand before you seek to be understood.” In other words, stop “assuming” you understand and start asking a lot more questions to make sure you truly do understand. (PS: Your ears work better when your mouth is closed.)

And the ONLY way to ensure understanding is through the use of paraphrasing where you re-phrase what you heard … to see if that is what the speaker intended to say. Listen, paraphrase, and then ask, “Did I get it right? Is that what you were trying to say?” Just remember, this is the ONLY thing that ensures communication.

_____ Score yourself from 1 to 10


Now add up your scores. If you have an overall score of 80 or above, I would put you in the “Excellent” category of leadership. If you have an overall score between 50 and 79, get some feedback, get some coaching, read some books, and take some classes. You CAN improve your leadership skills. There’s no doubt about it. And when you improve your leadership abilities, you maximize your influence and make your company a better place to work and your home a better place to live.

Action:  Work on one of the 9 different points for a week. Give it your all. Focus on it. Do your best in that area. And then go on to a second point during the second week, and so forth, until you’ve gone through all 9 points. Repeat the cycle as necessary.