Q:I'm already sold on the idea that leadership is important. But how do I know if I'm an effective leader?
A: I'm not trying to be cute here, but remember the scene near the end of the 1939 classic TheWizard of Oz, where Glinda the good witch points out to Dorothy that the ruby slippers had the power all along to take her back home? Well, in the same way, you already have the answer to this question. By asking, you're either looking for some validation or a kick in the pants. The general rule is that if your employees, whether they're salaried or on contract, are getting their jobs done in a way that you're happy with, you can consider yourself a good leader. Of course, you may be thinking: I'm just lucky. I hired good people, and I don't have to do a thing to motivate them.
But your luck is more than mere luck. Many of the best leaders take a hands-off approach, and doing "nothing" is often leadership. Arguably, if you've hired the right people, you shouldn't have to lead most of the time--you should be standing out of the way and letting people do their jobs while you do yours. That's why "lead by example" is a popular expression.
How you actually know, however, if you're an effective leader is simple. If your business is going in the direction you want to go in, and if your employees are happy and respect you and your company's goals, then you're effective. However, if you feel your business's goals are not being met because of the team you're surrounded by--well, then you've got a problem. In fact, you may well be the problem.
In that case, you'd do well to enroll in a leadership class or start reading up on the subject, whether it's recent bestsellers like Rudy Giuliani's book Leadership or older, underrated titles like The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell or Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times by Donald T. Phillips.
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Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.