There's no shortage of leadership content available. As you're reading this article, millions of other people around the world are gaining knowledge on how to become better leaders via YouTube, blogs, audiobooks, and podcasts. But the alarming part is, the improvement-to-content-consumed ratio is near nonexistent.
If you're a student of leadership, here are 10 reasons why you may not be getting better:
1. You Stop at "consume"
Reading and listening to learn are fantastic, but if we don't put what we take in into practice rather quickly, that effort can be for naught. Think of it like a golfer who just hits a lot of golf balls on the driving range but can't take her practice to the course. Find ways to quickly apply what you learn, no matter how small or insignificant it feels.
2. You View Leadership as a Title, not a Journey
Got a promotion into a management role? Hate to break it to you, but the title change won't make you a leader. Leadership is about action, not a position. View your development into a leader as a long-term journey instead of a short-term accomplishment, and you'll earn your position over time.
3. You're Not as Good as you Think you are
Generally speaking, people in management roles aren't the most self-aware folks. In over 80 percent of the 360° Welder Leader Assessments we've administered, leaders rate themselves more highly than their team rates them. Additionally, research shows 80 percent of people think they are better than average leaders.
Regardless of whether or not you think you're the best leader ever, self-awareness is a critical component to improving, and there's no place better to gain that knowledge than from than your team.
4. You Focus on Words more than Action
I know we all love the famous movie speeches that motivate and inspire--but one speech or motivational conversation isn't going to make a huge impact on your team. I have great news, especially if you're not into public speaking. What will move the needle long-term are your actions and behaviors, because those are what people remember most. There is nothing more powerful in leadership than your example.
5. You Think Leaders are Born, not Made
The age-old debate about whether leaders are born or made has been settled. Research by Leadership Quarterly found 24 percent of our leadership comes from DNA, while 76 percent is learned or developed. Whether or not you think you have the DNA, everyone has to work hard to develop leadership skills...and anyone can become a better leader.
6. You are Glued to your Screen
The choices for entertainment on our phones and television screens are endless. Consuming content at the expense of building real relationships is a big problem. Take a step back and ask yourself if you're using your screen as an escape from reality instead of a way to connect with others. Also, consider what content you're spending your time consuming. Many of today's content creators, and many of the main characters in popular programs, aren't the best examples of leaders.
7. You Default to Thinking about Results
Everyone in business knows that results are important. Without results, there are no jobs. But the best leaders focus on the process, and the behaviors that produce the best results, versus solely focusing on the outcome. Direct your attention to actions that produce results every day, and the results will follow.
8. You're Constantly Giving Advice
When you're as smart and experienced as you are, it's tempting to offer advice at every turn. But your advice can actually hurt your people, especially if it's doled out often. Instead of jumping to offering a solution, stop and ask questions to better understand the situation. Often a little bit of coaching can help an individual uncover the answer for themselves.
9. You're too Hard on Yourself
Leading other people is one of the hardest things you will ever do and it takes great courage. As Mareo McCracken said on this week's episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast: "Courage is the willingness to act in the face of fear, grief, or pain"
No matter how good you get, you will never be immune to errors or making a wrong decision. There will be times when things don't go according to plan, and that's okay: It's called life. Come to terms with it, and have courage that you are in the right role at the right time.
10. You Focus on the Wrong Things
I know you like the sexy things that come with being a leader, but when you boil it down there are a few essentials:
- Understand the fundamentals by focusing on relationships built on trust
- Get the foundation right by having a vision and core values
- Simplify lives and improve performance by setting standards and holding people accountable
If you found yourself relating to this list, first, congratulations on being self-aware enough to admit your shortcomings. Second, keep in mind one of my favorite Latin phrases: "nunc coepi," which means "now I begin." Start fresh today, and know that leadership is a journey and not a destination.
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