Are you unflappable?
Followers often let obstacles and mishaps throw them off course. When something goes wrong, they assume the whole project is doomed. Leaders expect obstacles and love being challenged. They know that even the best-laid plans can run into unexpected problems, so they take problems in stride and stay the course.
Are you humble?
Followers are always chasing glory. Leaders are humble. They don't allow any authority they may have to make them feel that they are better than anyone else. As such, they don't hesitate to jump in and do the dirty work when needed, and they won't ask anyone to do anything they wouldn't be willing to do themselves.
Are you passionate?
Followers are trapped in the daily grind. They go to work and complete their tasks so that they can go home at the end of the day and resume their real lives. Leaders love what they do and see their work as an important part of — not a weak substitute for — real life. Their job isn't just what they do; it's an important part of who they are.
Are you motivated from within?
Followers are only motivated by external factors: the next title, the next raise, the next gain in status. Leaders are internally motivated. They don't work for status or possessions. They are motivated to excel because it's who they are. True leaders keep pushing forward even when there's no carrot dangling in front of them.
True leaders keep pushing forward even when there's no carrot dangling in front of them.
Do you focus on titles?
Followers care a lot about titles, both their own and those of the people they work with. They're very conscious of who outranks whom, because they lack the skill and motivation to create leadership from within. Leaders, on the other hand, focus on what each individual brings to the table, regardless of what's printed on a business card.
Are you focused on people?
Followers focus on what they can achieve individually. Leaders are team players, because they know that greatness is a collective feat. A leader is only as good as what he or she can achieve through other people.
A leader is only as good as what he or she can achieve through other people.
Are you willing to learn?
Leaders, while confident, know that they're neither superhuman nor infallible. They're not afraid to admit when they don't know something, and they're willing to learn from anyone who can teach them, whether that person is a subordinate, a peer, or a superior. Followers are too busy trying to prove they're competent to learn anything from anyone else.
Bringing it all together
Take another quick look at the questions above. There's not a single one about title, position, or place on the org chart. That's because you can have the title and position without being a leader.
You may have worked for someone who fits that description. And you probably have colleagues who serve in leadership roles without a title.
Leadership and followership are mindsets. They're completely different ways of looking at the world. One is reactive, and the other is proactive. One is pessimistic; the other is optimistic. Where one sees a to-do list, the other sees possibilities.
So don't wait for the title. Leadership isn't something that anyone can give you — you have to earn it and claim it for yourself.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.
Travis Bradberry is an award-winning author and the co-founder of TalentSmart, the world's leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training.