Watch Your Step

January 11, 2016

Watch Your Step

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As a new leader, one of your first steps should be to examine your attitudes and behaviours to identify which ones are right and which ones need adjusting.

Most new leaders start out with good intentions but they often make what can be career-limiting moves because they do not have good role models or simply lack the experience to recognise the long-term impact their actions can have.

Here are the top five mistakes new leaders make:

1. Role rhetoric

Don’t believe the rhetoric that managing is the same as leading just because most organisations use the terms interchangeably. While there are probably many managers in any organisation, the reality is that there are very few true leaders. Your goal is to become one of them.

A manager is concerned with operational matters that assist in task completion. They are good at “doing things right”: following rules, meeting legislative requirements and keeping everything running to schedule.

You need to find a balance between these competing roles as the reality is, unless you are in a senior position, you will be required to both manage and lead to be successful.

2. Mindset mix-up

If you go into the role with a mindset that says to people, “I am here to lead you” or “I know better than you”, then you are likely to encounter a negative or submissive attitude in response.

A more helpful mindset tells people you truly understand what it takes to create a successful team and is far more likely to result in a positive, supportive reaction from your team.

3. Philosophical faux pas

Leading is not just about the decisions you make and the actions you take. It is also about the philosophy that underpins them. You will be mistaken if you think your team will automatically figure out your philosophical stance.

Developing a well-defined philosophy and then communicating it to your team members will ensure they are clear on where you stand. This means that even when you are not around, they will know what you would do in a given situation.

The result is that you are seen as a leader who stands for something rather than one who will fall for any new idea that comes along. This is the kind of leader that people want to follow.

4. Style-stymied

While often confused with a philosophy, your style as a leader is the way you demonstrate your philosophy. Two leaders can have a similar philosophy while implementing it using very different styles.

Identifying your style begins with examining yourself to understand the background you come from, the styles you have been exposed to and the lessons you have learnt from being on the receiving end of other leaders’ styles.

The best leaders know their style needs to be fluid to allow for the individual nature of the people they lead and the situations they will find themselves in. The secret is to be true to yourself while remaining flexible enough to bend with the prevailing conditions rather than try to remain unmoved in the face of competing forces.

 

5. Communication conundrum

Communicating as a leader can be confusing, especially when dealing with a diverse range of people. You are required to meet the communication needs of your team, your peers on the leadership team, senior leaders, customers, suppliers and others.

You need to consider the variety of communication mediums available to get your message across, the nuances of communicating with one person, a small group or large audiences and, finally, the individual preferences people have that are influenced by their personality style, cultural background, gender, age and so on.

It is no wonder that new leaders often struggle to get their ideas across as everything goes through a range of filters on its path from the mind of the leader to that of the receiver. The best leaders are master communicators, learning to watch and listen for the signs of ineffective communication, and knowing that early intervention is the secret to unlocking the communication conundrum.

Leadership
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