How To Know If You're In The Right Leadership Position

Leadership is a life long experience and at times it can be difficult to figure out if you’re in the right spot. Sometimes you may feel underwhelmed, or maybe you feel over loaded. Then again, maybe your just stuck.

Finding the right (and timely) leadership position can keep you on a sustainable path; failing to do so will inevitably lead to burnout or boredom.

Failing to find the right leadership position will lead to burnout or boredom.
— StevenJBarker

I recently bought my first motorcycle and it’s as if driving is new again. Things that I had long since taken for granted are fresh and interesting. What had become just another metal box flying down the highway next to me now has become a potential deadly obstacle. Smells and sounds that I had never really experienced in my car are now a vivid multi sensory experience. Driving has become raw and invigorating. 

For many of us, if leadership is going to be sustainable it needs to feel just raw enough and invigorating enough to keep us in the game. 

So how do you know you’re in the right leadership position? 

Don’t Outdrive Your Headlight

To stay engaged in your leadership role you need to stay at the edge of your capacity.

When you drive a vehicle at night for example, you really can only drive as fast as your eye can see. If you begin to outdrive your headlights you won’t have the time to react to any obstacles you may encounter. 

The same is true of leadership. It can be tempting to “bite off more than you can chew” but in reality, you really just want to bite off enough that’s somewhat difficult to chew. You want to take on enough responsibility that the work is challenging but not so much that you’re floundering. 

And to clarify, when I say take on responsibility I mean taking ownership for delivering results. If that means you’re starting something new, you’re taking on the responsibility to make that new “thing” a success. If you’re taking over an existing team, that means taking ownership of that team’s continued success and growth. 

Push yourself to the edge of your capacity. Keep yourself just uncomfortable enough that you have no choice but to keep learning. As you learn more you upgrade your leadership headlight and subsequently you can see further and further down the path. 

Keep Your Tank Full

At the same time you’re pushing forward, you’ve got to keep your gas thank full. Do you know what fills your tank? Is it your family relationships? Is it time with “safe” friends? (Do you still have those?) Do you have a hobby? Are you taking days off, just for you? 

Keeping your tank full is incredibly important. 

Schedule that time, invest in yourself. You’re no good to anyone else if you aren’t taking care of you. 

Watch Your Gauges

Then keep an eye on your gauges. Thing of it like this: leadership is supposed to hurt your head a little. It’s supposed to be challenging enough that it makes you think hard enough to make you feel a little tired at the end of the day. Your leadership pain gauge has three colors, you want to spend most of your time in the yellow zone. 

Green: If you’re to relaxed, eventually you’ll find yourself getting bored and tired of dealing with frivolous issues. You won’t have enough skin in the game to push through because your “purpose” engine won’t be burning hot enough. 

Red: If you find yourself maxed out, where you’re overly stressed about keeping all the plates spinning, you’ll certainly get yourself in trouble. No one can operate at that speed for a sustainable length of time. Back off a little, ask for help. Ask your team for assistance (or form a team if you don’t have one). Find someone on your team that’s currently leading in the green zone and ask them to take some of the load. 

Yellow: This is the sweet spot. It means you’re working hard enough your head hurts a little. You’re paying attention to what’s going on. You'll find yourself reading more, asking better questions and pushing toward audacious but attainable goals. 

You’re in the right leadership position when your brain hurts a little.
— StevenJBarker

Finding the right leadership positions means you’re regularly evaluating your current role and responsibilities. Take some time today to ask yourself these questions (and schedule at time to do it again in three months). 

  1. Am I driving faster than my headlights? 
  2. Is my tank getting close to empty? 
  3. Which zone is my leadership pain gauge in?  

And if you’ve got the guts, talk to your boss or board about it….I'm willing to bet you have common goals. Every organization is stronger when everyone is running at top performance. 

Question of the day: What are your answers to the three questions? 

Azendoo Will Flatten Your Volunteer Organization [Tool Review]

Flatter is faster, further reaching and most effective in a growing organization.

We know that in order for this organization to grow we need more people. We need more people owning the vision and moving us forward. As a leader this is invigorating and frightening. We want to climb the next hill, but the more we people involve the more "chefs we have in the kitchen". We fear that leaders will start off misaligned and eventually go rogue. We fear that eventually all we will be doing is fixing other people's mistakes and putting out fires. Not very exciting for you and me. Not really what we signed up for.

So here is the trick to going faster, further and being most effective when your organization is growing: flatness.

The secret to flatness is information and boundaries. As you've probably already experienced, one of the difficulties in running a volunteer organization is the balance between control and speed. We feel responsible for excellence in our organizations but how do we accomplish that promptly and appropriately? Over the last number of months I've been experimenting with a tool to help flatten our volunteer organization structure and it's working.  It's called Azendoo (link).



Azendoo groups all your teamwork in one place so that you can plan, share and get organized, together.




Azendoo has proven to be a fantastic tool for sharing information and engaging our volunteer teams. We've put information in the hands of high capacity volunteers so that they can make the best decision on the ground. There is one essential ingredient necessary when you push decision making to the lowest possible level in your organization. You've got to be absolutely sure you are playing from the same playbook. 


Azendoo also won Evernote's Best Multi-Platform App 



In Patrick Lencioni's book "The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business" [Link], he mentions 6 questions a team must answer:
  1. Why do we exist?

  2. How do we behave?

  3. What do we do?

  4. How will we succeed?

  5. What is most important, right now?

  6. Who must do what?

All 6 questions are important, but most important to what we are trying to accomplish is number 5. As a leader, you need to be able to point back to what is most important right now. In fact, as you manage a team, your most important job is to engage and energize you team to accomplish what's most important right now. 

Give you team the information they need to be the fastest, furthest reaching, most efficient team they can be. Then, get out of the way...

To get you started, I've put together a list of 5 tips to getting the most out Azendoo. You can download it for free below.