Alright, so you don't have the role. You don't have letters after your name. You don't even have "Senior" in front of your title. How can I possibly be a leader?

I hear these comments quite a bit. The funny thing is that these are often the questions asked by the person who's the most likely leader of the bunch. I know, we all want permission or endowment of the leadership mantle. We tell ourselves that it makes it easier. And clearer. But the reality is that those who are truly leaders, are such because they simply do what they're best at, provide guidance for others, and have a level of confidence in themselves that isn't seen in others. It's in this very uncertainty that the ones who show up and lead express themselves as leaders. To figure out if you're leader, let me pose a different set of questions (Jeff Foxworthy-style):

  • When someone asks a question in a meeting, do folks tend to look at you for your answer or guidance?
    You might be a leader...
  • When a team member can't get their code to compile or figure out how to do something, are you the one that helps them?
    You might be a leader...
  • If a customer gets upset and you're the one that hears about it or is called in to help wrangle a fix...
    You might be a leader...
  • When a customer sits down and starts a sentence with, "So, I've been thinking..."
    You might be a leader...
  • If morning stand up doesn't seem to go right when you show up late (or not at all)..
    You might be a leader...

Yeah, these are a little tongue-in-cheek but they illustrate the point - it's more about what you do than what your title is that determines if you're actually a leader.