The juxtaposition of leadership has always fascinated me as leadership is both the problem and the solution to many of the issues we face today. While on one hand leaders are the root cause for many challenges today, on the flip side they’re also the answer.
It’s easy to blame leaders at the top and avoid personal accountability. After all, if a deliverable doesn’t turn out as planned there’s always the “we didn’t have enough time” or “we needed more resources” excuse. But that’s BS. Leadership begins and ends with oneself because there’s only so much one person can affect (influence) and effect (change or control).
Part of leadership development is heightening awareness around oneself. The physical, mental and emotional habits that comprise one’s being are just that—habitual—and can become toxic if you don’t take the time to become aware of what works, what doesn’t and why. To build greater awareness, here are six mental mistakes leaders make that hold back their effectiveness:
1. Choosing me over we. It’s no secret that turf wars, finger pointing and back stabbing exist all too often. The basis for this self-interest stems from a lack of trust in two areas by which we judge others: their skill to get the job done and the will to do so with positive intent. If both of these—skill and will—are satisfied, then there’s no reason not to trust.
Solution: Building trust takes time, but it happens when there’s alignment between intention and action—consistently.
2. Ceding to short-term gratification. I once had a coaching client who struggled with her team. Actually, she didn’t struggle with her team, she struggled with herself. At the surface her challenge was work overload and assuming to many responsibilities, but at the core her real challenge was the need for instant gratification. While taking the time to educate and train a team member doesn’t offer an immediate payoff in the form of dollar signs in the short term, it’s imperative to long term success. Feedback isn’t a one-time event but rather an ongoing weekly—if not daily—conversation. Over communicate or under deliver (you’ll see this phrase again).
Solution: Remember that what gets measured gets improved, so keep track of how many times you have the same conversation. The next step is to ask why you keep having that conversation. What is it you’re avoiding that would put that conversation to rest?
3. Letting social judgment drive decisions. Years ago I asked for a personal definition of leadership from a group of healthcare professionals, and one brave participant replied, “Leadership is about being liked.” I didn’t have enough hair on my head to pull out at the time because the amount of frustration I felt was growing by the second. No, leadership is not about being liked—and this is exactly what derails many teams and companies is making decisions out of fear of social judgment.
Solution: Implement a decision-making process that mitigates bias and personal interpretation. Doing so removes the “me” component so you can focus on “we.” (See above.)
4. Too much governance and not enough guidance. It’s easy to direct others and tell them what to do. What’s not so easy is ceding control and letting them generate conclusions themselves. There’s a fine line between providing just enough guidance to offer direction and too much instruction that gets masked as guidance, but really turns into governance at the end of the day.
Solution: According to the late Richard Hackman, researcher and author of Leading Teams, good direction provides three things: clarity, challenge and consequences. The direction should be clear in that it orients people toward a specific goal or end state; challenging enough to motivate but not overwhelm; and consequent upon the competence and character of those involved.
5. Not showing up. Rather, not choosing how you show up. How you show up—mad, sad, glad, enthusiastic or with “poopy pants”—is contagious. How you show up is a choice. Have a long day yesterday? So did everybody. Didn’t meet performance expectations? Get over it. Say something you shouldn’t have? Live and learn. While what you did yesterday and today certainly impact who you’ll be tomorrow, choice is the ultimate decider. The sooner you take accountability for who and how you show up, the sooner your leadership effectiveness goes viral.
Solution: Get clear on the message you want to send and communicate it consistently. Consistency builds trust. Trust builds relationships. Relationships drive business.
6. Lack of clarity. Clear messaging enables clear decisions. Troubles arise when a leader either A) doesn’t provide direction (because he or she doesn’t know it) or B) used ambiguous language to communicate direction.
Solution: Think of communicating intent and direction as setting SMART goals—an acronym that I find so boring but helpful nonetheless. To provide clarity, make sure your messaging:
• Is Specific in word choice
• Provides a Measurable timeline so expectations are clear
• Is compelling enough to incite Action
• Is Relevant to the subject at hand and/or to people’s roles and responsibilities
• Offers a Timeline that incites the need to take action
Leadership is a choice, and failing to lead is leading to failure. It doesn’t just fall upon the shoulders of those at the top of the organizational pyramid to lead as it’s incumbent upon everyone, at every level, to communicate effectively and make decisions that serve the business.
This article was written by Jeff Boss from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.