Weak Leaders – Part Five

Strong Authentic Leaders were at one time committed followers. Many of them still are, at least sometimes. 

If you have always struggled to follow someone else then you will most likely always struggle to earn the right to have someone else follow you. Leading someone requires their commitment. Weak leaders have no idea what is required to earn that commitment. Thus the best they can do is create more weak leaders. It is very uncommon for a weak leader to develop someone into a strong leader. 

I could write for days on what causes a lack of commitment but I can sum up it’s result in one word…insubordination. The act of insubordination can take many forms. It could be completely ignoring the requests of the leader. It might be doing the opposite or nearly the opposite, of what is needed for the organization to succeed. Often it is simply talking poorly about the leader behind their back.  

Talking behind a leaders back results in one of the most productivity killing activities an insubordinate follower can undertake. That activity is known as circular communication. Let’s say the leader directs follower number one to perform a particular task. Follower number one thinks it’s a ridiculous request. So follower number one needs to find someone to complain to, we’ll call that person follower number two. 

Follower number two is never chosen at random. They are carefully selected because they must possess one singular quality above all others. They must agree with follower number one that the leader is making a ridiculous request.

It’s also likely that follower number one finds a follower 3, 4, and 5 to complain to as well. Followers 2, 3, 4, and 5 may also tell several other people until finally word gets back to the leader that follower number one thinks the leader is making ridiculous requests. Then the messy circle is complete. 

So now there are multiple people involved, discussing an issue that only two people have the ability to solve. Only the leader and follower number one. By not going directly to the leader follower number one has impacted the productivity, and likely the morale, of many people in the organization. That’s circular communication.

Follower number one may find themselves in a leadership position one day but they will almost certainly be a weak leader.

If you’re in a middle leadership position today and you’re participating in circular communication then you will be seen as a weak leader. Because you probably are. 

Strong Authentic Leaders do not try to communicate to someone through others. They communicate directly with the person who they need to speak with. Indirect, circular communication is a trust killer. When you lose the trust of the people around you then you’ve lost the ability to earn the level of commitment required to lead. 

The five characteristics of weak leaders I have written about in this series are fairly common. The good news is that each of them can be overcome. It requires a weak leader to make a commitment to improve their leadership skills. 

People who convert themselves from weak leaders to strong leaders often do so with the help of a coach or a mentor. It’s tough to do on your because one of the things that make people a weak leader is their inability to see themselves as they really are. 

The eyes and the objectivity of a mentor can make a big difference…if you’re willing to listen to them and act on their recommendations. 

Most weak leaders are satisfied with holding a leadership position. Strong Authentic Leaders made the choice to make a difference in the lives of others. 

Your position of leadership can make a difference for you or you can make a difference with your leadership position. That choice is completely up to you! 

Weak Leaders – Part Four

Weak Leaders lack humility. They mistakenly believe that their title or position makes them a leader. They all too often also believe it makes them a better person than someone without that title or position. 

That causes all kind of behaviors that negatively impact their ability to lead. It makes it very challenging for them to share credit or provide recognition to their people. They take credit for the good work of their people. That’s bad enough but as we talked about in an earlier post, they also heap blame upon their people when something goes wrong. That combination is an absolute morale killer. 

Weak Leaders believe a leadership position provides them with certain privileges that others are not entitled to. Scheduling flexibility, work attire, special parking places, more lenient policies, and a host of other perks. 

What weak leaders don’t understand is that those “privileges” build a wall between themselves and their people. That wall makes it very difficult to develop the relationships required to truly lead. It causes a lack of trust and even open hostility. It’s creates an “us vs them” culture which hamstrings every initiative the leader may attempt, whether it’s a worthwhile initiative or not.

One of the biggest challenges to bringing down those walls is that they are seldom seen from the weak leaders side of the wall. But on the followers side they are noticeable for miles. 

Strong Authentic Leaders don’t have to concern themselves with bringing down walls because they don’t allow them to be erected in the first place. They work tirelessly to connect, often one-on-one with as many members of their team as possible. They don’t see leadership as providing them with privileges, they see leading others as a privilege to be earned.

Strong Authentic Leaders not only give recognition to their people they thank them for their efforts. They realize something weak leaders often don’t…that thanking people doesn’t make you look weak, it helps make you an Authentic Leader. 

Weak Leaders have little or no communication with the majority of their followers. Most of the information they receive about what’s happening in their organization is heavily filtered by those closest to the top of the organization. This further separates them from the people they lead.  It results in an even more detrimental culture within the organization. 

Strong Authentic Leaders communicate with all levels of the organization on a near daily basis. They connect with people directly to show their interest in them. They let them know that their role in the organization matters. They know it’s not possible to over communicate or care to much. 

If you believe your leadership position provides you with privileges that others don’t deserve you may want to think again. The privileges you’re so fond of are limiting your opportunities to be an Authentic Leader.  They are also strengthening that wall between you and your people. Walls are good for many things, building the relationships required for leading is not one of them. 

Weak Leaders – Part Two

Strong Authentic Leaders make decisions. Perhaps surprisingly, so do weak leaders. What separates the two is that strong leaders act an those decisions almost immediately while weaker leaders hesitate…if they act at all.

There are lots of reason they hesitate. The biggest is fear of failure. They somehow get it in their heads that trying and failing is worse than not trying at all. Nothing could be further from the truth. All successful people fail, at least temporarily. The fact that they tried allows them to try again. Again and again, until the failure is behind them.

Not trying at all means that failure, and make no mistake, not trying is a HUGE failure, it means that the failure will always be with you. Never to be left behind. 

The first step in an action plan is often the hardest. Strong Authentic Leaders know that heavy trains often require an extra engine to get started. That’s why they aren’t afraid to ask for a little help to get going. It’s amazing the momentum that can be created with a single step. Unfortunately, weak leaders too often don’t take that step.

Weak leaders often use patience as an excuse for not starting. They are waiting for “just the right time” to begin, perhaps not realizing what they are doing is actually procrastinating. Patience is the acceptance that things can happen in a different order than you had imagined. Procrastination is waiting for the sake of waiting. Patience can provide benefits, procrastination simply kills opportunities for success. Strong Authentic Leaders know the difference. 

Strong Authentic Leaders do the hard jobs first. They know that there are only three options available when facing any challenge, they can delay, dodge or do. Strong leaders do. Weak Leaders do too but they do the easy things first hoping somehow that the hard things will either go away, be handled miraculously by someone else or that no one will notice they were never done at all. 

Weak Leaders are slow to start because they see risk in every opportunity. Strong Authentic Leaders are always moving forward because they see opportunity in every risk. Risk is a requirement for progress. Risk is a part of success. Strong Authentic Leaders are willing to take a risk, a well calculated, considered risk, in order to have a chance to lead. 

If you’re in a leadership position and find yourself hesitating then you need to ask yourself why. Are you risk adverse? Fearing failure? A wee bit too lazy to tackle the challenges of leadership? Or afraid of appearing weak by asking for help?

Well none of those are valid reasons for hesitating, they are excuses. The kind of excuses Strong Authentic Leaders do not make. So instead of making excuses start making decisions and taking action to make things happen. It won’t take long before you wonder why you weren’t doing that all along.

Weak Leaders – Part One

One of the most common characteristics of weak leaders is complaining about a lack of resources. Weak leaders frequently complain about a lack of resources no matter how many resources they have. That tends to make me think it’s more of an excuse rather than an actual issue. 

But even if they truly have a shortage of resources I still see it as more of an excuse than anything else. 

Weak leaders complain about too small a budget. They complain about too few people to get the job done. They complain about lack of time. 

The thing is, those complaints typically don’t limit a weak leader’s ability to complete a job or assignment, they prevent them from even starting. Strong Authentic Leaders do not allow the fact that they can’t do everything they would like to do prevent them from doing everything they can do. 

Authentic leaders who face limited resources prioritize what must get done. They separate the “nice to do” from the “must do” activities and then they develop a plan to get the “must do” things done. No excuses, no delays, no worries, no problem and no complaints.

I was on a call recently where in a 10 minute period of time someone in a leadership position complained at least a dozen times about what they couldn’t do because of a lack of resources. I couldn’t take it anymore so I asked them to please tell us what, if anything, they could do. 

They seem rather stumped. 

If you’re a leader who faces limited resources you simply must stop focusing on what you can’t do. Turn your attention to the things you can do. You must realize that there is a huge difference between no resources and limited resources. If you have people on your team, if you have dollars remaining in your budget then use those along with the 1440 minutes you definitely do have each day to accomplish as much as you possibly can. 

I realize you may not have the budget, people or time to do all that’s expected but you absolutely do have everything you need to do all that you can.

So do that!

Leaders in Name Only

I haven’t written about this topic in a while but it remains timely. Sadly, I’m afraid it will always be a timely topic because there will always be individuals who occupy positions of leadership with no clue as to what actual leadership looks like. 

They are managers who may or may not even be attempting to lead. So, before we go any further let me say loud and clear, with no doubt whatsoever, that managers and effective management are vital to any organization that hopes to grow or even survive in these times. 

However managers and management are vastly different than leaders and leadership. Both are essential for long-term success. The challenge for many managers and management teams is that they make the mistake of thinking that what they are doing is leading. It is often not. 

Sometimes, hopefully most of the time, good managers are good leaders and good leaders are good managers. Being effective at both requires that you understand the difference between the two. 

Managing and management is about a whole host of things. THINGS, as in inanimate objects and stuff. You manage things like property, inventory, buildings, plans, and budgets. If “it” can’t think for itself and is incapable of becoming emotional when you yell at it (a copier comes to mind) then you manage it. 

Leading and leadership is about people. Only people. All people. You lead people. You don’t even lead a company, organization, or team. You lead the people who make up that company, organization, or team. 

No, I’m not splitting hairs here. The difference in mindset between someone attempting to manage people and someone actually leading people is huge. Attempting to manage another human being as if they were an inanimate object is the cause of the vast majority of personnel problems within organizations. 

I’ve known very few managers who thought they were treating their people as inanimate objects. But how the manager feels they are treating their people is of little importance. How the people feel they are being treated will determine whether or not they have a chance to reach their full potential. If you’re not interested in helping people achieve their full potential that’s a sure sign you’re a leader in name only. 

Most people don’t read the owners manual that comes with the “stuff” they buy. That’s kinda how a manager attempts to lead people. “Seen one ya seen ‘em all” is a manager mindset. They manage all their buildings the same and they manage all their people the same too. 

Leaders read the owners manual for everyone of the people they lead. They know that every single person they lead is a unique individual with their own set of goals, objectives, hopes, dreams and yes, problems. 

They get to know their people because they care for them as people. They want them to succeed, they want them to grow. They know that their own success as a leader is completely dependent upon the success of their people. 

So while the manager may “spend time on” their people the leader “invests time with” their people. The difference in how people respond is like night and day. 

We could go on and on about the differences between managing and leader but I’ll spare you for now. Let me however leave you with a couple of questions to consider. First, do you understand, really understand the difference between the two? What would your people say if I asked them? 

The second question is key because when it comes to leading an Authentic Leader knows it is the followers who make the leader. If your people don’t see you as a leader then you have some work to do cause if you’re not leading they aren’t following. No matter what you tell yourself. 

They Who Hesitate….Seldom Lead

I used to shoot trap…a lot of trap. For those of you unfamiliar with that particular activity here’s a brief explanation.

Trap shooting (or trapshooting in North America) is one of the three major disciplines of competitive clay pigeon shooting (shooting shotguns at clay targets). The other disciplines are skeet shooting and sporting clays.

It’s only my opinion but for me trapshooting was by far the easiest of the three disciplines. The more I practiced the better I became…and I practiced for hours a day. It was normal for me to shoot at least a case of shotgun shells a day. 

I shot competitively all over the country and it wasn’t unusual to go a long time without a miss. A good shot was measured in the target being turned to dust less than a second after it appeared. Any other kind of hit was better than a miss but not by much.

One day I was invited to go trapshooting with my uncle and a few of his friends. They had never seen me shoot competitively but had heard I shot a lot of trap. So we got to the trap range and I was the 4th shooter out of five. We were on our third round of 25 targets when I finally broke a target into several bigger pieces. All the other targets were what a trap shooter would call “smoked.” I wasn’t even close to missing a shot.

My uncle and one of his friends suggested I was shooting too fast. I asked, “too fast for what?” They said you can’t keep hitting targets if you keep shooting that fast. We were shooting from 16 yards, the shortest distance on the trap range. It was almost inconceivable to me that I could miss from that distance. 

I asked for their reasoning on why I should hold off on pulling the trigger once I had the target lined up. They said something about haste making waste to which I replied “he who hesitates misses the target.” In trap shooting by the way that’s exactly true. The longer it takes you to line up your shot the more likely it will be that you will miss. That’s true for a lot of reasons but one of the main reasons is the pellets in your shotgun shell are more spread out. That makes it easier for the target to fly right through them. 

There are not many areas of life where hesitation pays dividends. That’s true in leadership as well. One of the five most common characteristics of weak leaders is that they hesitate. They wait for everything to be lined up perfectly before they are willing to pull the trigger. Many times they wait so long that they don’t pull the trigger at all. 

That’s not leadership!

Authentic Leaders possess the courage to “take the shot” when necessary, even without everything being perfectly aligned. They take a risk to chase success knowing full well that they could wait forever for the perfect opportunity to arrive. 

Authentic Leaders recognize windows of opportunities that lessor leaders fail to see. In fact, if Authentic Leaders don’t see an opportunity they create one. What they don’t do is hesitate. 

What they also don’t do is mistake patience for procrastination. One could create a bigger window of opportunity while the other, procrastination, slams the window shut. The most successful leaders, really the most successful people, are careful when using their patience. They know all too well it can easily become procrastination and procrastination is frequently mistaken for hesitation. 

The most effective Authentic Leaders do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. Whether it be dealing with conflict, making a difficult decision, or trying something new they know that delay frequently leads to a missed opportunity.

Don’t wait for the perfect time to lead. Use the information you have today. Use the skills you have today. Use the resources you have today to take action today. The key to success is likely in your hands already, hesitating to use it only makes it less likely that you’ll use it at all. 

Don’t miss your shot, be bold, don’t hesitate, Lead Today!

Exactly Who is the Idiot Here?

Hint…there are no idiots! 

I received a call from someone the other day asking for ideas on how they could build better relationships with their work colleagues. They were really struggling in this area because they don’t like working with people who are idiots. Idiot was their choice of words, not mine. 

I knew this was going to be an interesting conversation because I almost instantly believed I had figured out why this person might be “relationship challenged.” 

I began by asking how committed they were to improving their relationship with co-workers. They said they were very committed. I asked how they came to be “very” committed. They didn’t understand my question so I asked what caused them to become committed enough today to ask for help.  I pointed out that they could have asked yesterday or last week or last month.  

They replied that it had been recommended by their supervisor that they figure out a way to have these “better relationships.” That would be important if they hoped to advance within the company. 

Now that I understood the “motivation” for developing better relationships I asked them to quantify their level of commitment on a scale of one to ten. They immediately said a ten! Then I asked them to quantify their commitment level absent the “recommendation” from their boss. They had to think about that for a bit and eventually settled on a 3. 

When I asked why such a low commitment level they answered that they didn’t believe it was their responsibility to work well with idiots…there’s that word again. 

So then I asked if they could tell when talking with others if the person they were talking with thought they were an idiot. They answered yes. I asked how they could tell and they answered, “you just can.” Then I asked if that was some special gift of insight they possessed or if they thought other people could sense that as well. 

There was a rather lengthy silence on the phone at this point. 

I tried to lighten up the conversation a little bit by saying with a chuckle, “I think we may have discovered the way to better working relationships with your colleagues.”

They said they would stop thinking of others as idiots when they stopped being idiots. So I went back to my questioning. I asked how they interacted with people who treated them with disrespect, almost as if they were say… an idiot.

A bit more silence before I heard “I’ll treat “them” better when they treat me better.” 

I asked again about that commitment level of ten and why it was so high. They said they wanted a leadership position in their company and they knew they needed better relationships to get it. 

I told them that they already have a leadership position they just have to use it. Step one would be treating people, ALL PEOPLE, with respect. I said that would be easier to do if we realize that everyone knows something we don’t and we can learn from anyone. It’s unlikely we’re actually working with idiots. We are working with people who think differently than we do because their life experiences are different. 

They don’t know less than we do, they know different than we do. That means we can learn from them. It means we can learn from anyone. 

When we change our mindset from one of “people are idiots” to one of “I can learn from anyone” our relationships improve dramatically overnight. If you want better relationships with other people then don’t try to change them. Change your thinking about them.

That is what an Authentic Leader would do. If you want a higher position of leadership you should understand that you must lead from where you are before you can lead from somewhere else.