Answer These 6 Questions to Rate Your Leadership Capabilities and Skills

Leadership is such a broad topic it’s nearly impossible to boil it down into a one-sentence dictionary definition. However, in my last article, I defined leadership through the lens of my former boss, Richard Davis, the recently retired CEO of US Bank.

I considered Richard to be the quintessential leader – great at so many of the character qualities that make a leader truly outstanding.

leadershipWith this article, the focus is back on you. Test your leadership acumen with six questions that address several leadership qualities I shared in the article “Former US Bank CEO Richard Davis – The Embodiment of a Leader.”

Read on to find out how you measure up with:

  • Leading the Way
  • Excellence
  • Authenticity
  • Dreams
  • Empathy

Leading the Way (Modeling the Way)

Question 1: Have you, as the saying goes, “Walked a mile in their shoes?”

There are a few ways to accomplish walking a mile in their shoes:

First, you’ve worked in the organization in a functional role, which now reports to you, and were a high performer and respected in that role, or second, you get to know what those under you do every day by spending some time in the field with your people (management by walking around—MBWA). The best example of the latter is the “Under Cover Boss” TV show. You don’t have to go undercover, but you should immerse yourself in the business to help you understand what’s going on in the belly of your company with your people (employees).

Excellence (Setting a High Bar)

Question 2: Have you communicated your expectations and had a two-way conversation with staff/employees that ensure they understand them?

Here are a few ideas you can employ to accomplish these discussions:

First, communicate, communicate, and communicate again, and ask for feedback. Do this in one-to-one meetings, staff meetings, or large group and town hall meetings. You want feedback to ensure employees understand you. And if not, you can adjust expectations based on the feedback. The latter shows that you listen and respect the thoughts and ideas of your people. Moreover, feedback from others is invaluable; It’s also how you develop trust with others.

Question 3: Do you hold others accountable?

It’s imperative you hold others accountable for their commitments and actions. You accomplish this by, first, letting them set their own goals and objectives (with your input to ensure their goals align with the company’s overarching goals). And, second, by monitoring progress against expectations and goals. You must be willing to have the easy and hard conversations: It’s easy to call out others when they do what’s expected. However, it’s harder to talk with your employees when they’re not meeting expectations. But you must hold those hard conversations, too.


Question 4: Are you being who you are (and not impersonating someone else)?

Authenticity is a relatively straightforward quality, but it sometimes gets lost in the moment. Live, breath, and demonstrate to others how your values are in harmony with your organization’s values. Stay congruent and true to your values, never compromise them. Yes, be yourself, but be your honest self. Also, be willing to be vulnerable. It’s okay to show you don’t have all the answers. Seek and value input and help from others. Finally, be human.


Question 5: Are you appealing to the dreams of others (their wants and desires) with what you do?

Make sure you keep your messaging and communication about what you do as a business basic and clear to your stakeholders. What dreams are you helping them attain or fulfill? When you connect with your stakeholders by appealing to their dreams, you’re forging a more powerful and lasting bond. Connecting with your employees’ dreams is of particular importance with millennials, who want to work at companies with a more profound purpose than turning a profit. Many people, in fact, want to be connected emotionally with where they work, so appeal to what emotionally resonates with them.


Question 6: Do you show with regularity how much you understand or feel what others are experiencing? Can you put yourself in another’s position and understand their perspective?

Another word for empathy is compassion. This comes naturally to some, not so natural to others. The key is to be aware of how empathetic or compassionate you are and to remind yourself of how important it is to demonstrate this essential trait with your family, friends, and colleagues.

The art of expressing empathy begins with first listening intently to others without judgment, then acknowledging their feelings and personal situation.

Next Steps

How well did you do in answering each of these questions? Did you have more yeses than nos? I encourage you to create a development plan for yourself that addresses each of the questions that had a “no” response. Without a written plan, it’s unlikely you’ll be successful in making lasting changes to your leadership approach.

Again, create a plan!

Get your copy of "What Makes a Great Leader."


About the author

Rob Abele
Vistage Chair

Rob brings nearly 35 years of business management experience in several industries to Vistage. As CEO and president for 13 years in the financial services industry, he has successfully led companies through change and growth. Rob was most recently CEO and president of Corporate Payment Systems (CPS), a division of U.S. Bancorp.


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