One of the easiest ways to judge whether someone has the qualities of a leader is through a very basic metric: how often do they assign blame to someone else, and how often do they take responsibility themselves?
It has been my experience that the people who are true leaders in my life, the sorts of folks who I want to follow, typically avoid assigning blame whenever practical, even if it’s called for. They shoulder full responsibility for their own actions and spend the majority of their time focused on fixing what’s broken.
It has been my experience that the people who are the least productive, least inspiring folks in my life are the ones who assign blame as quickly as possible to someone else to cover for their shortcomings. They abdicate responsibility for their own actions and spend the majority of their time deflecting attention away from themselves towards other people.
Here’s the actionable piece: in the social world, everyone can see these two personalities in action very easily. All you need to do is pull up someone’s Twitterstream or Facebook wall and within a few minutes of reading, you have a very good idea of which camp someone falls in. Do they spend the majority of their time being helpful? Do they spend the majority of their time talking positively or negatively about others? Most important, how often do they complain and spend their time blaming others, and what ratio of talking about others is complaints versus praise?
Unquestionably, we all have bad days. Unquestionably, we all have experiences with other people that leave something to be desired. But to be someone that others want to have around and have in roles of responsibility, as someone that others would want to hire, you absolutely must demonstrate this core quality of a leader.
Take a few moments to audit your social history right now. Look over your Twitterstream, look at your wall, and ask yourself if you’re conveying a sense of leadership or are flinging blame as quickly as possible. Ask yourself if your social history conveys the person you want to be or not.
If you’re not the sort of person you want to be, there’s a relatively simple fix for that, too. Your view of the world is set by the questions you ask. If you truly want to view the world differently, if you truly want to see what’s good in it instead of what’s not meeting your expectations, ask different questions of the world. If someone lets you down, ask yourself how you could have set things up differently so that the person you’re working with had no choice but to succeed. If someone outperforms you, ask yourself what methods they’re using to get the performance you want.
Above all else, ask yourself to look for evidence of the kind of world you want to live in. If you want to live in hell, there are plenty of examples of people being truly awful to each other every day. If you want to live in paradise, there are plenty of examples of people being truly wonderful to each other every day. Change who you follow and read in social media from the people who bring out the worst in you to the people who bring out the best in you. It’s not hard – just a few clicks and you’re putting different programming into your brain via your blog reader or podcast listener.
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