Every day, somewhere in the world people are discussing, reading, or attending courses, in an attempt to enhance the capacity of leadership. Which is great! Continual learning is an essential trait of any leader, although there tends to be a key element missing in these sessions: a question that is rarely asked and even more rarely answered.

The list of skills, competencies and abilities required by a modern leader is long and complex. So much so we have been unable to establish a definitive one. Many conversations and a number of heated debates have raged over what is the most important skill a leader needs to have to be effective. Is it vision, communication, relationship building, team development or conflict management?

If we stand back from the list just for a moment, there is a fundamental question that organisations must ask their leaders and the leader also needs to ask themself and, in turn, answer.

“Do you really want to lead?”

It’s a very simple question, but with an incredibly complex answer. It may seem such a straightforward question for prospective leaders to ask and answer although, in my experience, this isn’t the case. Individuals like the prestige of leadership, the additional responsibility, and the increased pay package although are they truly ready, willing and desiring to lead?

Organisational culture tends to be structured to increase the potential of placing the wrong people in leadership. Often a potential leader is identified by the tasks completed and successful outputs undertaken. Although this success doesn’t necessarily translate into good leadership or that the person in question truly wants to be a leader. Often, too, the trend that may drive the wrong people into leadership positions is that that only career progression in many organisations is the leadership pathway. They therefore force people through that stream to progress forward, rather than provide development opportunities for non-leaders.

When I work with new and experienced leaders during coaching or training sessions, the barriers (i.e. things they don’t want to do) that are holding them back in ensuring that their teams reach their true potential is most often leadership skills; having the difficult conversations, setting expectations, and holding people accountable. When this is made clear to them, they are very reluctant to rectify the situation. They will find as many strategies possible to work around it rather than address them. This response begs the question if they truly want to be a leader in the first place.

As your organisation continues to develop and place leaders, consider asking: “Do you really want to lead?” before anything else.