5 simple steps to become a better leader
With so much written about leadership these days, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and confused. If you Google ‘leadership’ you’ll return over 479,000,000 results! No one has time to absorb even a fraction of these, let alone apply them, so here are 5 common leadership traps and how to avoid them to become a better leader.
1. BUY-IN TO SELF-DOUBT
Self-doubt is one of the most common leadership curses of even the best and most experienced leaders. Have you ever noticed what happens the moment you start to doubt yourself? The little gremlin voice inside your head is busily judging and undermining you.
Before you know it, you’re projecting uncertainty and others believe you – ‘maybe he’s just not up to the job’. You start to dread going to work and notice a constant gnawing tension that fuels wild assumptions and makes you just a tad paranoid!
BECOME A BETTER LEADER TIP #1: DEVELOP UNSHAKABLE SELF-BELIEF
- Every problem has a solution and reminding yourself that you have successfully solved more complex challenges in the past is the first step to restoring your self-belief.
- Step back and regain your perspective. Self-belief comes from keeping your eye firmly on the big picture and reminding yourself that whatever caused the crippling ‘self-doubt crisis’ will pass. Make decisions quickly and decisively and be ready to change course as you learn more.
- Remember this isn’t all about you! Move your ego out of the way and check in on why you’re in a leadership role. Invariably this will be because others recognized your ability to lead and ultimately you are here to serve them.
2. PANIC UNDER PRESSURE
Often triggered by self doubt, panicking under pressure directly undermines your leadership ability. This could result in working incredibly long hours, expecting your team to do the same, driving unachievable deadlines and investing huge amounts of energy to ‘cover your butt’!
BECOME A BETTER LEADER TIP #2: TAKE CONTROL OF THE SITUATION
- Feeling you have little control and it’s out of your hands, leads directly to panic. Turn this around by recognising what IS within your control. Focus your time and energy on actions you will take to positively influence the outcome.
- Step up and take direct responsibility for your actions and the desired outcome. Focus on what CAN be done and the best way to go about it. Clarify what success looks like and develop a compelling and irresistible vision that others can believe in.
- Harness the knowledge, experience, ideas and power of your team. Together, you stand a far greater chance of succeeding if you collaborate. Remember, your role is to enable them to solve the problem that caused the panic, not do it for them.
If you look at those you consider to be weak leaders, chances are that among other things, they are procrastinators. Indecisive and prone to distract people from their key purpose and goals, they just never seem to get anything much done. Others quickly lose respect, confidence and trust in chronic procrastinators, who then wonder why they are overlooked for promotion.
BECOME A BETTER LEADER TIP #3: DELIVER RESULTS AND OUTCOMES
- Stop talking about it and get on with it! You’ll ultimately be judged on what you do or don’t achieve. Deliver your commitments on or preferably ahead of the agreed date. Break the goal down into manageable, time-framed actions to step steadily towards the desired result.
- Manage the expectations of those who are relying on you. The only certainty in business is change and leaders often fail to re-negotiate the goal when other factors change. Speak up early and guide your team to develop alternative solutions.
- Be decisive and confident by trusting your own judgement. If you do make a mistake you will be judged more by the way you handle it, than by the mistake itself. Great leaders make mistakes and learn from them so quit aiming for perfection (guaranteed to fuel procrastination) and aim for excellence instead.
4. INTIMIDATE AND DISREGARD OTHERS
Old style command and control style leadership works well in armed combat situations but has little effect anywhere else these days. Gen X quietly frowns on perceived ‘bullying’ while Gen Y openly rejects it. Leaders who intimidate and disregard others quickly find themselves without followers, removing any chance of success. ‘My way or the highway’ approaches just don’t work and lead to fear, mistrust and lack of motivation.
BECOME A BETTER LEADER TIP #4: DEVELOP SELF-AWARENESS
- Notice how others perceive you. While you may believe you are projecting strong, decisive leadership, it could well be interpreted as autocratic and constraining. Seek feedback from those you lead to discover what they really believe and need.
- If you’re not getting the results you want, check in on how flexible you are. Do you modify the way you act and respond to changing situations? You may need to become more inclusive, patient and collaborative.
- The most powerful tool in a great leader’s toolkit is active listening. Be fully present and genuinely consider what you’re being told (before responding), to build respect and trust. Hear what is being said for vital information you may not be aware of. Listen for what’s not being said to get to the core of an issue.
5. FAKE IT
There’s no better way to lose trust, respect and credibility than being someone you’re not! Those who are always ‘punching above their weight’ or those who ‘schmooze’ with a self-promoting ulterior motive, are quickly found out. It takes a lot of energy, time and effort to be someone you’re not. At best you’ll be sidelined or overlooked for promotion. At worst you’ll be the first on the redundancy list when the next restructure happens.
BECOME A BETTER LEADER TIP #5: BE WHO YOU REALLY ARE
- Often described as ‘authentic leadership’, this involves being clear about your values and ensuring your actions and behaviours align with who you are. This doesn’t mean stubbornly sticking to your beliefs. Modify your views and flex your approach to achieve the desired outcome but never compromise your values
- Consistently model the behaviours you wish to see in others. This could be as simple as arriving on time to all meetings and greeting everyone individually (shows respect), stating meeting outcomes at the start and insisting on sticking with the agenda (shows commitment and focus).
- The easiest way to ‘be who you are’ is to embrace your unique leadership qualities, park the judgement (of self and others) and feel comfortable in your own skin. Watch how others start seeking you out when you relax and allow your passion, values, beliefs and behaviours do the talking.
Leadership Traps are everywhere! How many of these have you seen yourself (or others) slip into, often without realising you’re doing it? Fortunately, they are easily avoided. Great Leadership comes from believing in yourself; taking control of the situation; delivering results; being constantly self aware, flexible and authentic.