triangular yield or caution signs with question marksThere’s no shortage of people calling themselves leaders today.  Search Amazon and you’ll find thousands or millions of books on leadership-related topics.  Google the word, and there are tons of websites. Hashtag the term in your Twitter search box and you’ll find scores of profiles. There’s nothing wrong with being a leader or claiming the title.  We need more leaders.  I can’t think of a field where leadership is not appreciated.  Nor can I think of a time when effective leadership was needed more! Leaders aren’t always liked or loved, and effective leaders face challenges every day that could put their reputations or their businesses at risk. So if you want to be a leader, and you’re willing to put yourself out there, kudos to you it takes courage to do that.  Just know that the term “leader” shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Below are five questions everyone should ask before claiming the risky title of leader.

Am I a good listener?

Listening is just one of those skills that you can’t ignore. Speaking of ignoring, if you’re not truly listening, then people think you’re ignoring them.  The word “ignore” actually comes directly from the Latin term “ignorare” which literally means to dismiss or disregard.  And I’m sure if you further study the word ignore there’s a direct relationship to the word “ignorant”.  Leaders who choose not to listen are ignorant.  People around us need to know we’re listening.  Most of the time, they just want to be heard.  Leaders listen, and genuinely want to hear the people around them.

Am I teachable?

I’m a teacher by trade.  I love sharing knowledge or finding the message or meaning in something and passing it on to those around me.  It is certainly an unrealistic expectation for leaders to know everything.  When we think we know everything we stop discovering, and innovating.  Leaders worth following are always looking around for ways to improve and build on their base.  Those who are unteachable are quick to judge or criticize the ideas or thoughts of others.  They’re also typically the first to say, “That’ll never work.” Teachable people are willing and flexible, even when they’re uncomfortable because they know learning is the only way to growth, and that new experiences and sharpened abilities are the keys to success for them and their team. I’ve often said, that when we become truly unteachable, our career is about to meet its end.

Is anyone following me?

This is a tough one.  I don’t believe that leaders must have tons of followers but leading by its very definition implies there are at least some followers.  I also don’t necessarily believe that leaders have to be running a Fortune 500 business or organization either.  Some of the best leaders have a small team of very effective people.  I have however, noticed the trend of quick print CEOs. They simply print business cards with the CEO title on it before ever making a sale or a profit, without any evidence of leadership. I can’t help but ask– CEO of what? CEO implies an organization exists and that there are others in the organization.  Less people are willing to do the grunt work before claiming the mantle of President or CEO.  I’d rather their business card simply say, innovative, entrepreneur, or entry level jack of all trades. After all most are not only entrepreneurs, but they’re also responsible for their own web presence, social media, lead generation, paperwork, and more.

Some choose to call themselves, “Thought Leaders” too.  I respect that because it implies there’s some heavy creativity, and influence, but again, thought leadership also implies some authority and respect exists for your name within your field, and that in fact your thoughts have made the leap from your head to another venue, person, or organization.

nicely dressed man sitting in road with laptop thinkingThen there’s also this idea of self-leadership.  Those people who proclaim they are leaders because they lead themselves. I think that’s noble and we need more disciplined self-leadership especially as we are developing leaders.  The term implies a leader is taking responsibility for life and getting it all together expecting to go out and do great things. Perhaps it’s the pupae stage of being a leader, and you’re someone with leadership characteristics who may be worthy of leading, but you’re not a leader until you have followers.

Do others know my purpose?

One of the most significant compliments any leader can get is to be confronted with the notion that other people are listening to your message, and they find value in what you’re saying and that they respect you for advancing your ideas.  If you’re out there doing things, and you’re actively seeking to impact your community, your organization, or your field, people will notice.  It will be no secret what you’re up to.  When others know and understand what you’re about, and they see you acting intentionally to pursue your passion, then they’ll also know your purpose.  You won’t have to work to earn the respect of those you’re trying to serve, and you’ll become their go-to person.

Why am I calling myself a leader anyway?

This is one of the toughest but most important questions you can ask yourself.  Why? Why are you pursuing whatever you’re pursuing?  Only you know your motivation.  Titles and recognition are much less important than bringing value, change, and meaning to other people.  You can lead without a title. Many people do it. With few exceptions you’ll find that most of the successful people in your field are successful not because they were pursuing glorification, attention, or seeking flattery. They’re successful because they’re intention is to make a lasting impact in their sphere of influence and in their world.

Self-reflection is an important part of not only becoming a leader, but of remaining one.  Take some time and write down why it is you’re comfortable being called a leader, and try your best to refrain from referring to yourself that way, not because you’re not one, but because it’s much more powerful and sweeter to hear that from others in your world and to know that you’re trusted in that way.


Who is Chester? An expert in leadership, Chester is also a leading influencer in social reputation, education, non-profit advocacy, parenting issues, access, policy, and blogging culture. Chester has been quoted in major media outlets such as CNBC, Yahoo, the Washington Post, Forbes Leadership, and others. He is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post The Good Men Project, and Edutopia. You can learn more about Chester and his Amazon #1 Best Seller at or

He and his wife live in Tennessee with their teenage son. His favorite contemporary leaders include:  Bob Goff, Seth Godin, Andy Stanley, Brene’ Brown, Christine Caine, Simon Sinek, John Maxwell, and emerging leader Paul Sohn.

Who are your favorite leaders? Share them with Chester, and tell him why they’re your faves on your favorites by connecting on social media.