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How to Measure your Success as a Leader

Sep 13, 2022
Jon Lehman, Faculty Director, Executive Education at Vanderbilt Business shares ways to measure your success as a leader.

By Arial Starks

Jon Lehman, Faculty Director, Executive Education at Vanderbilt Business

Jon Lehman

Determining your success as a leader can be difficult, because the final decision isn’t fully in your hands. The measure of good leadership is largely dependent on the willingness of others to follow you. Jon Lehman, Faculty Director, Executive Education at Vanderbilt Business, breaks down a few ways to tell how effective your leadership style is for your team and ultimately measure your success as a leader.

Assess your leadership style and fit with the task

Companies go through predictable stages in their growth. Leading a start-up requires a different set of skills than maintaining the momentum of a large business. Turning a struggling company around requires unique skills and temperament. While some rare leaders can successfully transition the entire growth arc, most are better equipped for one or possibly 2 stages.

 “A creative entrepreneur might be great at developing an innovative product and generating early customers, but later on, building the structure and refining necessary processes to grow rapidly might not be in that founder’s wheelhouse,” remarked Lehman.

Define what success means to you and your team 

Start by deciding what success looks like to you and what style of leadership will be most effective for your team. The right goals must take into account a team member’s desires, the company’s culture, and the objectives needed at that growth stage. It is vital for leaders to observe and learn how their teams operate and what motivates them.

“You have to spend time with your team and help them figure out what matters to them, and how they define success. Where do they want to go? How do they want to grow? But their goals will also need to align with the company needs. For example, if the goal is to demonstrate revenue traction for a follow-on financing, efficient customer acquisition and onboarding are clearly needed,” Lehman said.

Create a series of complementary metrics that will drive the business

Creating a focused set of interconnected, reinforcing goals is critical. This helps leaders focus on the activities that actually drive the business and long-term success. Your team needs to understand both their individual and company goals and how they contribute together to overall success. Lehman notes that while seeing positive changes in a simple company metric like revenue is a good indicator that you are doing something potentially right, “that can’t be the sole criteria to determine your effectiveness as a leader. Both your team and the company need to succeed at the same time.” 

Measure the success of your team

As a leader, your team’s performance is a direct reflection of your success. In addition to company-level metrics, there are several indicators you can look for in your team that will let you know whether your leadership style is effective. If you are noticing low productivity and high turnover rates, you may need to make some changes in the way you lead. Lehman points to the recent trend of ‘quiet quitting,’ where employees are not willing to do anything more than what is in their job description, as a clear negative indicator. 

“That says to me that a leader hasn’t done a very good job of communicating the company’s mission and aligning that mission with what their employees’ needs are to ensure they are feeling happy and motivated,” he said.

To learn more about how to thrive in leadership, check out Lehman’s short program here.

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