The 7 Tests of Great Leadership

Adam White is CEO of Adam White Speaks, entrepreneur and author of the bestselling book, “A Leader Others Will Follow: The Power of Influence.

Everything in life that is significant in value has been tested over and over again. In fact it is the rigorous testing of a product or service that ensures it’s quality over time.

Would you sit in a chair that hadn’t been tested for weight capacity?

Would you drive a car that never had it’s brakes tested or the ability to come to a complete stop?

The same is true of Great leadership. Great leadership is tested over and over. Great leadership is not granted but has to be earned.

So how is our leadership tested?

I want to offer 7 tests that every leader must pass in order to achieve enduring and influential leadership.

May this empower your leadership and inspire you to greatness as a leader both personally and professionally.

The Test of Service– One of the greatest test that we will have to pass as a leader is the test of servant leadership. It is very easy to be in a position of leadership and forget that our role as a leader is not just to direct traffic, but to serve those that we are leading.

In my book, “A Leader Others Will Follow: The Power of Influence”, I talk about relationships being the foundation of great leadership. We can’t lead others simply because we have a position or title, but we must earn their trust and respect as a leader. The quickest way to earn trust and respect from employees and those we lead is simply by “serving” them. We need to understand human need and what is most important to them. We need to look in the mirror of life and ask ourselves how can we improve those that follow us, how can we influence them to greatness, and how can we pour ourselves into them?

“The proof of great leadership is a path behind the leader filled with people who have become better as a result of the leader’s presence.” –Adam White

What do the people look like that are in the path you are leading? Are they healthy or starving? Do they have a sense of security under your command or are they homeless and helpless. If you want to see how you are doing as a leader and if you think you may have passed the test of service, simply take a look at the people you are leading for the answer.

If people around you are flourshing, happy, making progress and contributing to you as a leader then you have just passed this test. If people are frustrated, distrustful and disappointed then you might study for this test a little more. You will have to take this test over and over until you pass it. When you lose your ability to be served, then you can serve others. It takes a leader who has raised their standard above their own ego in order to serve others.

The proof of great leadership is a path behind the leader filled with people who have become better as a result of the leader’s presence.


The Test of Sensitivity – This test requires a leader to develop their ability to sense the direction in which to lead and also to be sensitive to the needs of others.

Have you made the direction, path and vision clear for those that follow you? Do they know where they are going? It takes courage, vision, and fearlessness to be able to sense which direction to go.

In this modern society of distraction, it can be easy for a leader to get off track or off course from the intended destination. Do you have the ability to sense when you are off track? Great leadership means you have developed your senses to hear, smell, see, touch, and taste what needs to be done as a leader. Dull senses can cause misdirection, but developed senses can easily detect right from wrong, left from right, up from down. This is also a two-part test and the second part of this test that you will have to pass is the ability to be sensitive to the needs of others. I have often said it and I will continue to say it… Love is the one skill that is missing from the resume of many leaders.

We can love people without leading them, but we can’t lead people without loving them.

It takes an unselfish leader to put the needs of the team ahead of his or her own. It takes sensitivity to understand that we are not just leading systems or processes, but we are leading people. We have the responsibility to lead with kindness and sense the needs of those that are follwing us before they ask. This test can be a tough one, but I belive in your ability to pass it. Practice placing the needs of your followers ahead of your own and you will be surprized at how they respond to your leadership.

The Test of Separation– This leadership test will test your ability to walk alone. The decisions and actions of a leader may not always be popular and it requires a leader to face walking alone. Everyone will surround you and cheer you on when the organization is successful, when everyone is making money, but it’s a lonely trail when things go wrong, or recession hits. The same crowd that was cheering you on during good times, will suddenly disappear when the going gets rough. You will have to past the test of separation in order to become a great leader. Just remember that the time alone is a time for character development. You are strongest when you have to do it alone. Don’t feel discouraged when you are not supported in your decisions. As long as you know you have given your best and you have considered those that follow you, you will make it through this test successfully. After every season of rain, the sun will always shine again. April showers will always bring May flowers. Isloation leads to preparation and preparation is the path to Leadership Greatness.

The Test of Setting Your Own Stage – This test will test a leader’s ability to lead where others have never gone before. Great Leadership means setting up your own stage for success. It means taking the raw materials that you have been given and turning raw material into a masterpiece. When you set your own stage you don’t have to wait to see if someone else has done it before, you won’t need likes or approvals. You can simply execute the vision that is in your heart and mind. You can take a idea from concept to completion because you have passed the test of setting your own stage. The beauty of passing this leadership test is that others can stand on the stage that you have built. Your followers will be inspired to achieve greatness because they saw you do it first. You become the ultimate role model and leader that others want to follow because of your ability to take nothing and make something out of it. This is one test that some leaders fail at because they rely on what other leaders have done. They rely on being liked or rely on popular opinion. This test builds determination and develops a leader’s ability to build something great and enduring.

The Test of Sacrifice – The ultimate cost of leadership will come in the form of sacrifice. Sometimes it means studying while others are snacking. It means giving every ounce of who you are to develop your skill of leadership. Sometimes it will cost you time away from family or time away from the social activites that you so enjoy. It takes a tremendous amout of discipline to become a great leader. Leaders are not born they are developed and that development process often requires a certain level of sacrifice.

Once you pass this test, you will always remember what you have to give up in order to achieve great results. The cost of greatness is never forgotten in the mind of great leaders. You must past this test in order to become a great leader.

The Test of Switch– This test will test a leaders ability to switch their process, switch their perspective, and switch their plan in order to achieve greatness. Are you Traditional or Transitional? This test stops many leaders from achieving greatness. Some leaders are traditional and continue to do things the way they have always done them. They are not flexible enough to change even when they see they need to. Ego can play a big part here and keep a leader trapped from making progress simply because they are unwilling to change. If you are a transitional leader, then you can switch from one process to another, from one way to a different way. Your ability to be flexible and embrace change rather than avoid it, is what will give you the skill to past this leadership test of switch. Take inventory today and answer this powerful question, “Are you Traditional or Transitional?” That will determine if you have the ability to pass this leaderhship test.

The Test of Substitute – The test will test the leaders ability to work themselves out of a job. Have you trained and properly prepared someone to do what you do? The essence of leadership is pouring yourself into the lives of others. Are you actively mentoring those that follow you so they can take a part of you into the next phase of their lives? Do you show and share with others what you know? Is there a tranfer of knowledge to your followers. Did you know there are many CEO’s that hold back knowledge and information so that the organization intentionally fails once they leave. Don’t be that type of leader. I know that’s not you. Develop a successor. Share your brilliance with those that follow you. This is the true test of humility and leadership greatness.

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