Mehreen Farhan

You are probably a first time manager just getting used to the various jargons used at this level. One of the very popular words you will hear a lot is leadership. You might wonder if you are a leader or not and at this point, you will most likely doubt yourself.

I don’t blame you. Being a leader is, in fact, a bigger badge to wear and with it, comes a whole different set of responsibilities one commits to. The good news is, you can always train yourself to be one. In this article, I will share some key characteristics using which you can safely understand whether or not you are ready for a leadership role or not.

Conversely, if you think you lack in some areas discussed below, you can work on them to get to the first level of leadership at the very least.

Please note that leadership is a quality that is not only restricted to corporate and businesses. As you will now see, it is a personal journey which then benefits those around you. These qualities overlap widely and coexist.

8 Signs of Leadership: You have a Vision

All leaders have a vision. Whether it is a corporate setting, a personal one, one thing that every leader should primarily have is a vision. This vision is the goal which drives the leader forward and motivates a leader to lead their pack.

A political leader may have a vision for his country, a friend who has leadership qualities may want to share his/her vision of a better life with friends, an employee who exhibits leadership qualities may share his/her vision by ensuring everyone has an adequate skill set. Similarly, a first-time manager can surely exhibit strong leadership qualities if the person has a clear vision of what he wants to achieve with the team.

A vision should be clear and concise

A vision should be clear and concise. It should reflect the ideology and morals of a people; and it should bring out the best in them.

In a corporate setting, a clear vision would be something the whole team should aspire for, and yet delivers exact business value to the company as expected from the department.

It is the first and foremost duty of a leader to share this vision with those with him, motivate them for the same cause, and enable them to achieve this goal. A leader will reiterate and refine vision as and when needed, and ensure everyone shares this vision with him.

8 Signs of Leadership: You have Followers

What is a leader without anyone who follows? A leader always has followers who follow him/her due to credibility or rapport. 

Image credits / Mind Help

It may be the case that people choose to become followers when they see someone championing their cause, or discover someone who is marching forward for an ideology they also believe in.

A leader may be discovered in times of adversity when others will perhaps crumble. 

People choose to be followers for different reasons: respect, clarity of thoughts of the leader, leader’s ability to bring others forward, their empathy; most importantly: a leader’s credibility.

In a corporate setting, you as a first-time manager were promoted to this role given your past experience, skill set and performance. But not all your team members may be your followers. Using key human attributes like credibility, mutual respect and empathy, bring them all to a shared vision where everyone wins. This will surely set the stage for your success and your team’s success as well.

8 Signs of Leadership: You have Skills

There may be a difference of opinion when it comes to skill sets. Understanding the skill set required to achieve your vision/goals is always beneficial.

There are leaders or managers who consider their role only dictating. If they do not have the required skill set, they cannot help out their team with roadblocks in an optimal way. Such leaders lack the empathy required to understand their team’s struggles in work because they simply do not understand the depth of any technical issue.

A leader who can help and pull out their team out of, for example, a tricky technical issue will always be preferred over someone who is just giving out orders and expecting timelines to be met with little to no concern of the problems/delays faced on the way.

Even if you are someone with the required skill set today, pick up some tasks from time to time to do on your own. This way you will make sure to keep yourself skilled in tasks and will always remember how to do them by yourself. 

8 Signs of Leadership: You are a Coach

And what do you do with all the skill sets that you have? As a leader, you coach your team and followers. A true leader not only shares a vision with those with him, but also shows them how to achieve that vision.

This is one of the most intrinsic qualities that sets a leader apart from a manager: a manager tells the team what to do, but a leader also tells the team how to do it.

A leader identifies strengths and weaknesses in others and works on not only utilizing their strength in an optimal way, but also works on their weaknesses and helps them overcome those.

8 Signs of Leadership: You have Well Developed Soft Skills

While leaders invest a great deal of their time nurturing their teams and followers, they also need to actively negotiate with stakeholders outside their circle of influence.

Some of the many soft skills required by those who aspire to be effective leaders are strong communication skills, active listening skills, conflict management, team building skills, emotional skills, empathy and strategic decision making skills.

One area normally ignored by an average technical manager or lead is effective presentation skills. Knowing how to best showcase your team’s effort is as important as actually getting the work done.

On the other hand, a leader must understand their team at a human level and be able to get through to them. Their team needs to feel heard and understood. An empathetic leader is better than a highly skilled manager any time, any day.

8 Signs of Leadership: You are Able to Prioritize

You might be thrown into a situation where several items need to be tackled at the same time.

Using tools such as impact analysis, and strong soft skills such as decision making and understanding the team, a leader should be able to efficiently prioritize. Keeping the well being of your team at hand, there may be instances where you will need to protect your team’s energy and keep them away from exhaustion. 

On the other hand, there may be instances where there is no other way but to tackle all those items at the same time. This is where your knowledge of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses can come in handy. That, coupled with your ability to get through to everyone empathetically, you will be able to get the work done.

A true leader knows when to prioritize what; what to put at stake at what time, and how to efficiently get the work done despite on-ground challenges.

8 Signs of Leadership: You Can Delegate

Delegation is an art.

While most team leads resort to delegation just to enjoy the sheer power of it, delegation if done right can do wonders for your team’s capacity building.

Delegation if done right can do wonders for your team’s capacity building.

In times of easy work load, I prefer cross-assigning tasks to team members in a way that everyone gets to work on something they aren’t really good at. This way, they get a chance to practice and learn. Do this consistently and you will be able to build a team where each member knows how to do everything.

According to the principles of project management, the ideal scenario is to build a team where each team member’s skill set mimics a ‘T’; the breadth of the top horizontal line of T depicts all skills known at a basic to intermediate level, while the elongated vertical line depicts at least one specialized skill.

While an average manager will simply aim to get the work done, a leader will go the extra mile to create a learning opportunity for everyone in the team.

8 Signs of Leadership: You are a Problem Solver

A leader is a problem solver. Leaders understand that their role is to help others achieve their goals. They do not avoid problems, rather find ways to solve them.

A leader understands that problems faced by their team are their own problems and helping the team resolve them is a step towards achieving their collective goal.

If you wish to be a leader known for your problem solving skills then there are various problem solving techniques you can employ. My go-to problem solving technique is Al Khwarzimi’s problem solving framework which states that each problem can be broken into atomic steps. Solving each atomic level problem will ultimately solve the entire problem.


Leadership, as you can very well see now, is an upgrade in many ways from a manager. Managers are crucial to the success of any business and this article does not mean to cast a bad light on people who are pure managers. As the corporate world shifts rapidly to adapt to new challenges and new goals, it is important to change our way of working too. Being a leader means you are a manager who connects with your team at a much deeper level.

Being a leader means you earn their respect and loyalty and that is the best investment you can make for your business.

Every business is a people’s business. And you will never go wrong when you invest in your people as a true leader.

Good luck!

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