Ask Rob: How Do I Know If I’m a Good Leader?

Many of you reach out to me from time to time with a challenging management scenario, where you’d like to get guidance on how to approach that.

Today’s episode will feature a new format that we rolled out called ‘Ask Rob’.

Today’s question is from Doug, who is from Colorado:

“Hi, Rob. I was recently promoted into a management position about eight months ago. I often hear you talk about transition and the need to understand that there’s a difference between managing a process and becoming a leader. My question to you is, how do you know when you’ve made that transition? Or at least know that you are a good leader?”

In this episode of the Leadership Jam Session Podcast, I’ll address Doug’s challenging scenario. I’ll talk about why true leaders are the ones that get validation from the teams they lead. I’ll also share some of my life experiences that shaped my approach to leadership. 

If you’re dealing with a challenging scenario, feel free to reach out to me through my website at https://sartoleadershipgroup.com/leadership-jam-session-podcast/. Click on ‘Ask Rob,’ and you’ll be able to send your scenario to me. 

We care about your privacy, so everything will be held confidential. 

How to know if you’re a good leader 

First of all, I think Doug poses a great question, and the fact that he is already looking for that transition to take place means that he is on the right track. 

Yes, anyone can manage, but true leaders are the ones that know the importance of managing processes but also never lose sight of how essential their people are. 

So to answer Doug’s question: The only people who can validate whether you’re a good leader are your people, the ones reporting to you. Not your peers, not your manager – your direct reports, your employees. 

I know some people out there might disagree with that answer. But the reality is, if you genuinely want to see if you’re a good leader, the only place you have to go to look for that answer is your people.

What is the best way to achieve that? Well, the simple way of doing it is to do a 360 on yourself. This evaluation technique will provide you actionable feedback from your employees, which will give you a better understanding of your performance as a leader.

If you’re new to managing, I would recommend doing 360 reviews six months in and then a year out and then once more a year later. If you’re in a position where you manage people and don’t do 360s on yourself, you’re missing a tremendous opportunity. 

However, there are other ways to know whether you’re a good leader than performance reviews, and these have more to do with some signals of events that confirm that you’re doing right by your people.

The signs of a good leader

So, what are these signs, or what do you need to be looking for?

For me, an event took place during my first year managing people, which helped me get that confirmation that I was on the right track. I will share a little bit of that experience with you.

At the time, I lived in Brooklyn, where I worked as a sales rep in healthcare. I had recently applied for a district sales manager position in West Virginia, which I ended up getting, so I had to move there with my family.

This team in West Virginia was one of the most tenured teams out there. One of the sales reps in that district had also applied for the position I had gotten. We’ll call him Joe.

Joe is a great guy, but I imagined that someone who was at least ten years older than me and had more years in the company would be upset at losing the position to me.

So my first trip to West Virginia was to meet the team individually.

As you may imagine, I wanted to meet Joe first and rip the band-aid off. I was somewhat worried about our meeting, but we had a good breakfast and a great conversation, where I tried to reinforce my support for him.

Over the year, Joe and I developed an excellent relationship and created a tremendous trust.

About a year later from our meeting, part of my goal was to get exposure for Joe. So one day, one of the executives came to spend some time in the field, and I put him with Joe.

Later that day, Joe and I met for dinner, and I asked him how his day had been. He told me the guy was pretty arrogant and clueless about the field.

He said: “You know, I would hate to work for somebody like that. There’s no way I would lay down on a track or follow that individual anywhere“. Then he turned to me, and he said: “I would follow you anywhere. I would lay down on a track for you”.

What good leadership is about

It was at that moment that I realized that I could do this job. Joe was a very successful, very seasoned sales rep and a seasoned informal leader within his team. If I could win over somebody like Joe and win his respect, that was my validation that I could get the job done and be a good leader. 

When we take over a team, there are moments like that; you need to look for them. And it might take a long time, but somewhere within that year, you should get some validation that you’re on the right track. 

Remember, only your people can give you that validation, but you have to make sure you look for those moments. That will help you stay on the right path.

If you have a question or challenging scenario that you’d like to run by me, please feel free to reach out to me on leadershipjamsession.com, and you’ll see the new feature on the website. Just click on ‘Ask Rob,’ and you’ll be able to submit your challenging scenario. 

 Key Takeaways 

– Episode intro (00:00)

– How to get featured in ‘Ask Rob’ (00:36)

– How do you know if you’re a good leader? (01:25)

– Why only your people can give you that validation (03:00)

– The signs that you’re on the right track (04:10)

– Leadership lessons from my life experiences (05:27)

– Episode recap (09:54)

Leadership Resources

How are the leaders at all levels of management tackling the toughest challenges each day? Learn more at: https://sartoleadershipgroup.com

About the author, Rob

Rob Fonte is the founder and President of Sarto Leadership Group, whose reputation has been built on being a transformational leader and inspirational coach with a passion for developing others. His twenty-year career spans across multiple disciplines including leading award-winning sales teams. Rob is an academically trained Executive Coach certified by The University of Texas and the International Coach Federation.