Leaders lead. Simple, right?
The problem is, few people actually know how to lead. I’m not saying they’re not proficient at their jobs; I’m just pointing out they don’t know how to lead.
Leadership isn’t a numbers game. Having more direct reports in no way means you are a better leader.
Nor is it a title. We all know titles don’t make leaders; actions do.
Yet I’d wager the majority of us know at least one “leader” who follows the “Do as I say, not as I do.” policy—the one who consistently breaks the rules but severely punishes employees that commit minor infractions.
The obese doctor tells you to watch your diet.
The politician who runs a conservative campaign as a family man yet gets caught days later sexting photos of himself to strangers.
The four-star Army General who crushes subordinates for minor infractions while simultaneously having an extramarital affair and allowing his mistress access to high-level classified information…
I could go on, but I’ll stop and let your mind wander for a bit while you picture other examples you deal with.
There is good news, though. These people rarely fool anyone with their antics. Like most frauds, they’re eventually discovered and forced to answer for their hypocrisy.
In addition to the “do as I say” leader, another classic leadership problem is an inability to delegate work to subordinates.
This is a problem close to my own heart. I speak from experience, and for years I worked my tail off embracing the mantra of “If you want it done right, do it yourself.”
Eventually, though, I stopped and looked around.
My direct reports were making excellent salaries while I did a large portion of their work. They often went home early while I typically arrived home barely in time to put my children to bed.
This observation hit me hard, and I learned quickly to task people more effectively and held them accountable for their work.
It wasn’t that I didn’t trust them, far from it.
It wasn’t that they weren’t competent. They were.
It was me – I had to learn to let go, communicate effectively, and manage expectations across the board.
Changing wasn’t easy for me, and it wasn’t immediate, but it was very much worth it in the end.
YOU are the person your employees look to for guidance. If you’re habitually late, consistently break the rules, or berate others, they will feel that behavior is the norm and emulate it whenever possible.
Gandhi said it best when he said: “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”
Your actions speak volumes – be the leader you are capable of being and set the tone for the entire organization.
No one said leadership is easy, and one of the most difficult lessons is learning to do that which only you can do.
Delegating items to others and communicating to them the expected results is difficult to master. Just remember, practice makes perfect, and it takes lots of time and lots of practice to become a better leader and communicator. The last perfect person walked the Earth over 2000 years ago – so you can forgive yourself for being imperfect.
Know you aren’t infallible. Know you will make mistakes. Learn from them and grow.
Most importantly, set the proper example – in all things. Trust me; people are watching.