Leadership is challenging and takes daily work not only on your company and goals but on yourself in order to lead well. Here are three ways that leaders derail themselves from being a great leader. If caught in these traps, leaders become uncoachable and hardened, often putting themselves on a path to struggle and likely organizational death. Check out the following areas and assess where you might be vulnerable to some of these natural leadership challenges.
- Lack self-awareness In order to create change you have to be able to see hard truth. Some of the hardest things for us to see are the ways we are not measuring up, being effective or lacking in ability. It is humbling to see and admit this. It is challenging to change it. Usually areas, where leaders struggle, are areas that are more challenging for them, otherwise, it would not have been a struggle in the first place. The ability for a leader to be self-reflective to discern and understand their next area for growth is critical to ensure they are not actually the reason the goal, progress and forward movement for the organization is being stifled. As you reflect on your areas of growth, you are able to determine where and how to grow so that you level up yourself, making space for your team to be self-reflective and level up their skills and abilities.
- Being Defensive It is natural to be defensive when you are working hard and extending yourself for the sake of the organization, team, and goal. It can be confusing and discouraging when you are trying so hard and giving your best and things still don’t seem right or good enough for some. As a leader, we often know things and have perspectives of why something needed to be a certain way or why something had to be done in a fashion different than everyone’s ideal. That said when feedback is given it is a gift. Listen to it. What is true? What can you take from that? A good leader needs to be discerning, all feedback is not equal and should not be acted on just because it was given. Consider the source, purpose of the feedback and request … allow that to weigh into your reflections and actions. Consider if this is about them or you. 99% of the time feedback is about the sharer. It is something they need or are experiencing a gap with, even if the feedback is critical of you. Try to hear what they are needing and do not take the feedback personally. Ask yourself, “what are they asking for? what do they really need or want?” Often when people are hurt or offended, they attack in feedback rather than asking for what they need. The feedback that is given to you about your improvement, decisions, and development should come mostly from your inner circle, those who have your best interest in mind and have your back. They might give hard truth feedback, but if it is for the sake of you being your best and in mastery, it is worthy of respect and response. Being defensive shuts down your ability to hear, listen and learn. Even if you don’t agree there is no need to be defensive, as it really won’t change anything. Great leaders are able to hear what is said, respond respectfully to the person, ask questions to clarify, identify the requested action and determine a plan of action to move forward (even if that plan is not what they were requesting). Approaches that don’t create space for conversation shut the team and the communication down. Without that, you are building a dam in your organization and flow stops.
- Lack of self-management (being critical and shutting others down vs. empowering and communicating) In leadership, there are significant responsibilities and pressures to keep business moving forward. The degree at times can be a pressure cooker inside the heart and mind of a leader. When the team lacks awareness and execution and fails to be proactive it is frustrating and challenging. As a leader, we often have more information that others on the team do not have. With that information, we are able to navigate quickly and have more resources at our fingertips. Often leaders forget what power, status, knowledge, and resources they have which the team does not. Leaders can feel the team had a small job and failed at doing a fraction of the task. It is important to step back and consider how the team was set up for success or not? What did they need or what communication would have changed this situation. Sometimes there are underperformers and that needs to be addressed, but more often than not, leaders have not communicated and the team was doing their best with the information they had. Leaders get frustrated at the lack of results and lay into the team. This will kill momentum, team, and progress every time. It is like taking a Weed Wacker to a bush in frustration when you really just needed to trim it to help it flourish and grow. Taking measures to make sure you are centered, grounded and stable each day is critical. It is challenging when leaders are moving quickly and juggling many things, but it is not an excuse to be a jerk and to lay into people. Few people thrive when being shamed and enduring tongue lashings. Your ability to be constructive in your feedback and approach and empowering in your communication is key to set the team up to create the results you hope for.
What ways do you see leaders getting in their own way? These are three that are very common and worth watching out for!