Leadership isn’t easy. Not everyone was built to be a boss. To be a good one requires near-constant reflection and self-evaluation to ensure you’re serving your team – and yourself – well
CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Organisation News Daily
There are as many management and leadership theories in the world as there are theorists. But it’s fair to say that most workers instinctively look to someone who guides, rather than bosses, and to someone who provides a clear embodiment of an organisation’s mission and values. If you allow your leadership to be guided by these principles, you’re well on the way to greatness.
But no-one is perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. Here are six common leadership weaknesses, and how you can fix them.
Lack of trust in employees
New leaders often either micromanage employees or take on more tasks than they can handle, all because they don’t trust their teams to perform as well as they want them to.
“This happens when leaders mistake their role and instead serve as taskmasters, or managers, in an effort to ensure that things get done,” says Keisha A. Rivers, founder and chief outcome facilitator of The KARS Group Ltd. “The best approach is not to micromanage every detail of what has to be done, but to focus on specific outcomes and trusting your team to follow through. Having periodic check-ups is best to ensure progress is being made, rather than wanting to be cc’d on every single email, or requiring your team to provide daily status reports.”
Being connected 24/7 has become a hallmark of the modern mobile workforce. Constant connectivity allows managers to provide feedback on the go and more easily manage workers across time zones, Nicholas Thorne, CEO of digital badge platform Basno explains. The problem is that this can lead to an always-connected, omnipresent approach to leadership – and that’s bad for managers and team members alike, he warns.
The state of being constantly plugged in can actually lead to a malady known as ‘hurry sickness’ – defined as the constant need to accomplish more, be faster and multitask everything, even when there is no apparent need to do so. ‘Hurry sickness’ causes leaders and employees alike to get caught up in minutiae, rather than standing back and taking in the bigger picture.
Over-committed and overstressed leaders are often inaccessible. You should hold yourself accountable only to reasonable expectations, as stretching yourself too thin will do more damage than good for you and the entire organisation. Realising you can’t do it all, and setting some boundaries, lets you cut back on extra commitments and focus on priorities.
All leaders, eventually, face the danger of getting stuck in their ways. The current way of doing things may be working, but it’s important not to let yourself – or your team – grow stagnant. “The biggest threat to a successful organisation is becoming static, and losing a desire for innovation,” Liz Elting, co-CEO of organisation language services firm TransPerfect says.
Liz believes that the best thing you can do for your team as a leader is communicate and create a clear sense of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Your organisation’s mission will almost certainly lose credibility without continued innovation, and reminding the organisation of its purpose will motivate you to collaborate and grow.
To stay adaptive, leaders also need to listen to feedback from anyone who has a stake in the organisation, including clients.
Needing to be liked
Leaders are people first, and it’s natural that they want to be liked, says David Scarola, chief experience officer of organisation resource The Alternative Board (TAB). However, the need to be in everyone’s good favour can sometimes cloud solid organisational judgment.
“A common mistake with new managers, and new organisation owners, is that they make decisions that are popular, which are often not the best decisions for the organisation,” David explains. “[Leaders] need to sometimes make unpopular decisions; that comes with the territory.”
Instead of trying to be well-liked by your employees, seek instead to be understood and respected. Learn how to communicate openly and frequently with your team, and always keep staff members ‘in the loop’ about the reason behind any decisions, popular or not.
“The best leaders have learned that, if they make the right decisions for their organisations, even if unpopular, and also take the time to explain their reasoning, they will earn the respect of their employees,” David says. “In the long run, this is the best outcome a leader can aspire to.”
When you’re dealing with performance evaluations base them on specific metrics rather than subjective measures; you can’t stress over being someone’s friend before being their boss.
A ‘Do what I say, not what I do’ mentality is toxic to your work environment. The leader sets the example for the team. If you want your employees to respect and listen to you, you must follow your own rules; you can’t hold your staff accountable if you aren’t willing to work just as hard.
“A leader must have the utmost and highest level of integrity, and model the way for their team,” says Daniel Freschi, president of leadership development organisation EDGE. “If you leave early during the workday, or speak in an offhand manner about a colleague, it will likely be repeated by your direct reports. To avoid this, a leader needs to clarify their values and be hyperaware of their behaviour and hold themselves to the same, or higher, standards that you would direct reports.”
“Leaders often want to create a certain type of environment, but don’t want to actually participate in the culture they are determined to create,” adds Heather Monahan, founder of career mentoring group Boss in Heels . “If you are seeking to create a collaborative environment, ask yourself first if you are collaborating and sharing with others. Putting yourself in everyone else’s shoes will pay dividends.”
You don’t want to isolate yourself from the rest of your team, so don’t be aloof, or act like you are better than your employees, Heather advises; this will only create tension and frustrate employees. It’s better to be open about your flaws with your workers. The more transparent you are, the more authentic your entire team will be. “By slowly letting others in, and sharing failures and challenges, you will begin to appear more real, and employees will begin to believe in you.
“When you make yourself vulnerable, you make yourself relatable.”