This is one of the most interesting questions I like to ask when I am coaching clients who hold a leadership position or dream of leading others.  The reason I love this question is because it gives me a great insight into what has shaped someone’s experiences so far.  During my time working in the corporate world, I saw some great leaders, some very bad leaders and everything in between.

But what I was always fascinated with was the impact this had on the people who reported into them.  I love to people watch and as I watched some of the individuals rise into leadership positions, it became easier to spot those who had learnt ‘leadership’ from their manager.  The ones who were especially bad were very easy to pick out!

So, who do you learn leadership from?  Reflect on how you lead others and think about who has influenced you over the years.  Are you the leader you want to be or the leader you think you should be?  If you’re not sure if what you’re doing right now is the best way to lead others then it’s a good opportunity to reflect on what is important to you.  It is important to distinguish between a good/ great leader and a poor leader and rather than take it for granted that just because somebody held a leadership position that they were necessarily a good leader.  That can be a real manhole to fall into!

If you have been emulating somebody else’s leadership style because “they must have been doing something right”, I would encourage you to put that to one side and think about the type of leader you want to be.  Unfortunately, we have seen globally – in big business and politics – our ‘so-called’ leaders have actually been very poor and if you want to make a difference, it’s time to look at your own internal compass and find your own direction.

Here are 3 questions to ask to right now to make sure you’re on track with your own leadership compass:

  1. Do you admire the people you learnt from If not, this is a good sign that you’re heading in the wrong direction.
  2. Does their style resonate with you?  Do you feel like it brings out the best in others or is it more command and control?
  3. Finally, ask yourself “Would I have done things differently?”  If your answer is yes, then ask yourself what would you have done differently?  It can be easy to dismiss someone else’s efforts so take the next step in the process and think “What would I have done differently?”

Leadership takes courage and one of the most courageous things you can ever do in your life is be you and true to you.  If you’re going to be a great leader, you have to be clear on what you do and how you do it so others can follow your example (not by trying to be you but so they can also be true to themselves).  This is what the world of business needs – not clones but people fully engaged and willing to question the status quo to make things better.

Are you that person?