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10 signs a person may not be ready to lead

1. Can’t handle pressure

Leaders are often admired. But they are also criticized, cut down and sometimes ridiculed. A true leader understands this and is able to put it in perspective. Sidney Greenberg once said, “A successful man (or woman) is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him.” In the fire service, it’s not difficult to see how someone handles pressure. We deal with high-pressure situations on a regular basis. When a person takes on a leadership role, however, the pressure intensifies. Take note of how a person handles controversy. Do they play the victim? Do they look to blame others? By definition, victims aren’t leaders. Leaders step up and take charge during difficult times.

2. Poor people skills

Most people who have inadequate or poor people skills don’t know they have inadequate or poor people skills. When you are around someone who has strong people skills, they have the ability to make other people feel important. They are the types of people that others enjoy being around. They listen, pay attention, offer advice, and lead by example. There is a popular saying about leaders with people skills, “Leaders are readers.” One of the best ways for a person to improve their skill with people is by reading the right books. When you see team members reading self-help and personal growth books, you know the persons head is in the right place.

3. Values/Beliefs do not align with those of the organization

Leaders are culture creators. They are passionate about developing the right culture. Passion comes from values and beliefs. If a person clearly does not believe in the mission of the team, they are not the right person to help develop the culture you are trying to create. One way to determine if a person believes in your mission is to identify if the individual has been a good follower. Often times, good followers become good leaders because they have learned to adopt a vision and move towards that direction for the betterment of the team.

4. Don’t like being uncomfortable

Leadership is about change. The fact is, if you are not achieving your desired results, change is the only option. Change is uncomfortable. There is no way around it. When people avoid change, they are trapped in their comfort zone, and no one will ever achieve anything significant without stepping outside of that familiar zone and into unfamiliar territory. Leaders realize the only constant is change.

5. Put personal needs ahead of the team

When a person refuses to give credit where it is due, they are not ready to lead others. Leaders know that for them to be important (in terms of taking credit) they have to consider themselves the least important person on the team. When a person tries to take the spotlight all the time, they are showing signs of immaturity and selfishness. Others recognize this flaw immediately and tend to hold back from giving their best performance. A strong leader will understand that everyone on the team has needs and try and accommodate those needs along the way.

6. Set bad examples

This one is obvious, but needs to be mentioned. Even if a person is a strong producer, if they set bad examples along the way, others will follow those examples. Take the person who uses foul and offensive language regularly. When they reach a leadership position, everyone on the team will think this is acceptable. If team members become comfortable enough talking this way around the lunchroom, it’s only a matter of time before they say the wrong thing at the wrong time outside of the work place.

7. Confuse position with experience

Title, position, and rank mean something significant and should not be diminished. With that being said; however, people in leadership positions need to stop trying to act like they have more experience in every area than the other members on their team. The fact is we can all learn something new from every member of our team. Even if you do have more experience than most, don’t discount their personal experiences that may provide valuable insight when you need it.

8. Inconsistent

A team leader cannot afford to be on one day and off the next. Yes, personal challenges will happen and there will be times when a person isn’t on top of their game, but that’s different. When a person’s inconsistency is the norm, the individual is not stable enough to lead a team on a regular basis. This, and all of the first seven signs listed above can be overcome as long as the individual doesn’t have the 8th or 9th sign.

9. Indecisive

An indecisive person is described as ‘not having or showing the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively.’ Leaders make decisions, period. They don’t sit on the fence and wait for everything to be perfect. They look at the options, make a decision, and act upon it. When a person takes too long to make decisions, rules often change and opportunities are lost. The “politically correct” thought process of “I feel strongly both ways” can take its toll on a team of people who are hungry for a clear decision and a precise action plan.

10. Unable or Unwilling

When a person is unaware they are doing things incorrectly or showing poor qualities, sometimes all they need to correct things is a little guidance. The real problems occur when the person is unable or unwilling. Unable can also be overcome – most of the time – with training and effort. Unwilling; however, is a completely different animal. People who are unwilling to do the things that need to be done have no place on your team and certainly should not be put in a leadership role. In the fire service, we have a word for people who are unwilling… insubordinate.

Before you accept a role that will require personal responsibility and accountability, ask yourself, “Am I ready for a leadership position?” Do the same when considering a person for a leadership role on your team. If that person has a few of the characteristics listed above, address it or reconsider the appointment for the benefit of the team. Don’t forget, most of your skillset will come from doing. If you feel you possess some of those non-leadership characteristics, acknowledgement is a key to growth. Look around and find people in leadership roles you admire and study them. Emulate the things they are doing that impress you, but don’t lose your personal flair or style. Keep in mind, leadership isn’t always about being the one out in front. People often underestimate the importance of being a good follower first.

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