When we talk about leadership, we often focus on the particular skills, habits, practices, and methodologies that are necessary for a leader to adequately and effectively do his or her job.

These actions and characteristics are numerous. From delegation to conflict resolution, communication to motivation, the list goes on, each bullet just as important as the last.

However, there is one secret to being a great leader that stands above the rest. It is the single most important thing that a leader MUST do before all else. And that is: they must first see themselves as a leader.

Without the ability to do this, any other skill or practice we could possibly discuss is useless. This is the foundation on which all your other leadership abilities are built upon. If you cannot see yourself as a leader, neither will anyone else.

A Fear of Leadership?

Despite this crucial component, this bedrock for great leadership, there are many people with great potential who are uncomfortable with seeing themselves as a leader. There is a reluctance and a hesitation. And why is that?

Drew Dudley, speaker and founder of Nuance Leadership Inc., summed it up perfectly in a short, powerful TED Talk when he said,

“I’ve come to realize that we have made leadership into something bigger than us. We’ve made it into something beyond us. We’ve made it about changing the world, and we’ve taken this title of leader, and we treat it as if it’s something that one day we’re going to deserve. But to give it to ourselves right now means a level of arrogance or cockiness that we’re not comfortable with.

What Dudley is saying is that we’re so concerned with remaining humble that we begin to doubt ourselves, and that keeps us from reaching our full potential.

Get Out of Your Way

Everyone has a potential leader within them. The only thing standing between you and your role as a leader is…you. In order to see yourself as a leader, you’ve got to get out of your own way and ignore the voice of doubt. It might not be the easiest thing to overcome. Doubt is a natural instinct, but there are a few things you can do that will help you see yourself as deserving of a leadership position.

Recognize it’s a job you’ve been called to do, and not your ego.

You’re not being egotistical. There’s a reason you’ve been called to be a leader: because you have displayed the qualities necessary to lead. Whether you were born with a natural inclination towards leadership or you’ve worked hard to develop these skills, you’ve been entrusted with a very important job. So do it.

See the leadership role as a necessary part of society, not a privileged position.

Society is naturally full of roles that must be filled for the common good of the people. We need doctors to cure our illness, farmers to provide us with food, teachers to guide our education, law enforcement to protect us, and so forth.
The role of a leader is no different. It’s a natural and necessary role within our society. When you take on a leadership position, don’t look at it as a privilege. See it as an opportunity to do your part for your community.

Focus on the responsibilities, not the perceived benefits.

There is a false perception that leadership roles are all perks and benefits with half the work. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Leadership roles come with an entirely new catalogue of responsibilities. When you ascend to that position, you become accountable for more than just yourself. Don’t focus on the title or any benefits that might come with it, focus on the enormous task at hand. You have a team to lead. Their success is your success, and consequently, their failure is your failure.

Leaders make a difference. They change lives. They keep us moving forward, and they push us to build, innovate, and grow. The world needs great leaders. But we cannot become something if we can’t first see it in ourselves.