“I should lead a team if I want to get promoted.”

“I should be a people manager.” 

“It’s the next obvious step for me to succeed” 

Do any of these thoughts sound familiar? 

When it comes to career development, we’re conditioned to think that success is all about that vertical climb; it should mean the next step up the corporate ladder or that next most senior job title. 

But, before you make your way ‘up the ladder’ and step into a leadership role, I’ve got a question for you: WHY? Why do you want to lead a team? Why do you want to be a people manager? 

Leading a team of people – be it one person or a hundred people – is not an easy gig. It requires patience. It requires encouragement. It requires emotional intelligence. An ability to build trust and rapport with people. Moreover, it requires a genuine belief that others’ success is your success. 

For people who are already leading teams and love being a people manager (and who already know exactly why they do it), great! But, what about others who haven’t asked these questions? What about those who got thrust into the position due to their highly skilled individual contributions and it seemed like the obvious next step – only to step into the role and realise that they actually don’t enjoy it?

That’s what I’m discussing in our latest podcast episode and below! 

Below, I outline 7 questions that I believe you should ask yourself honestly to reflect on whether leadership really is the right career path for you. 

1. Are you a good listener?

Be honest: Are you a good listener? Do you truly enjoy taking the time to listen to people and coach them to problem-solve? When your team needs to come and talk to you, are you really presenting yourself as approachable and accessible? A good team leader is someone who’s willing and able to make time with people and listen to them. Really listen to them. Not just wait for them to stop talking so that you can speak.  Ask yourself, how good are your active listening skills? Do you listen to understand, or just list to respond? 

2. Are you sincerely keen to learn more about yourself and other people?

Are you self-aware? Are you open to feedback – and making necessary changes based on that? Part of being a good leader is being honest (and having some not so nice conversations) with yourself like, “How do I need to shift the way that I show up?”, “How might I need to change the way that I engage with my team in order to get the results that we need to get?” or “What changes can I make to improve the way I lead?” 

To be a leader, you’ve got to be humble enough to learn from your team – if you think that you’re always right and that you’ve got nothing to learn, you’ll never gain the respect of your team. 

3. Are you actually excited?

Are you excited by the idea of developing a team and helping people see their full potential? Do you genuinely get sincere satisfaction out of encouraging other people to step up? Or, would you prefer to just stay in your lane, do your own work tasks or projects to the best of your ability and let other people look after themselves? If it’s the latter, know that there’s absolutely no shame in that! 

However, you need to ask yourself this question and be really honest about it. Why? How passionate and enthusiastic you are about leading is going to be a key differentiator between being successful and effective, versus being ineffective and having a detrimental impact on the people who you were supposed to support.

4. Are you skilled and well-developed in your time management and organisational skills?

Are you able to manage your workload well? Can you complete your own work commitments, while still having time to help your team? Remember: it’s not your teams’ fault that you also have work to do; it’s not their fault that you also have projects you’re trying to roll out and initiatives that you are responsible for. So, make sure that you can manage your time well and that you’re still accessible to your team when they need you. This is a core requirement of team leaders and not an easy one to juggle.

5. Are you patient?

Are you truly a patient person? Are you someone who doesn’t get frustrated when you get repeated questions? Rest assured when you’re leading a team, you will get questions and comments from your team – they might say that they’re uncomfortable, nervous, or that they lack confidence in things that you think are easy. But remember: Just because you know the answer, or you think that something is easy,  doesn’t mean that your team member does. How able are you to coach them through new learnings? If you are more likely to get impatient and frustrated, then you may want to reflect if leading a team is for you. 

6. Are you prepared for the fact that leadership can be a lonely gig?

Being a leader can feel isolating at times. Sometimes, you might be dealing with difficult situations and you can’t necessarily talk publicly about it. You might have to deliver some difficult news to your team that you might not even agree with. But, despite the challenges you’re facing, you still need to stand up, show up, and communicate with your team – this can feel isolating and a little bit lonely sometimes. 

7. Are you prepared to make some tough decisions?

As a leader, there will come a time when you have to make some tough decisions – and not all of them you might necessarily agree with. Part of being a mature team leader is being able to communicate that message, own that message, and not abdicate responsibility for it. As a team leader, it’s your responsibility to communicate the message in a way that both tells the truth and is transparent, but also still keeps your team aligned, and working together towards the goal you’re trying to achieve. This is a challenging skill for a lot of new team leaders in particular when they realise that they aren't able to be their team ‘bestie’ anymore, and it can then lead to difficult conversations being avoided or ignored. 

The Bottom Line

Leading a team is an incredible opportunity to support others and drive meaningful change inside an organization by achieving outcomes through and with others.  However, it isn’t for everyone. And there is no shame in owning that it isn’t for you. The above questions  are just some of the questions you should ask yourself before you step into a leadership role. By doing this you are putting yourself in a more empowered position to make the right decision for your own definition of career success. 

Need some help with your leadership, or to work out what your next career or leadership move is? Book a free call in my calendar and let’s chat. 

Listen to the full podcast here.