10 missteps that curtail a leader’s development

You listen to podcasts, read the books, watch the videos, yet still there’s a shortfall in your ability to inspire the troops. These misconceptions and wrong turns might be the problem.

Leadership mistakes

There’s no shortage of leadership content available.

As you’re reading this article, millions around the world are gaining knowledge on how to become better leaders via YouTube, blogs, audiobooks and podcasts. Despite all that available content, leaders’ improvement seems scant.

If you’re an aspiring leader, here are 10 reasons why you might not be getting better at it:

1. You stop at “consume.”

Reading and listening to learn are fantastic, but if we don’t put that guidance into practice quickly, that effort can be for naught. Think of a golfer who 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? Sadly, that title change won’t make you a leader. Leadership is about action, not a static position. View your development into a leader as a long-term journey instead of a short-term accomplishment, and you’ll grow into your role 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, leaders rate themselves more highly than their team rates them. Additionally, research shows 80 percent of people think they are better-than-average leaders. Self-awareness is vital to improving, and there’s no place better to gain that insight than from your team. You just have to be open to their candor.

4. You focus on words more than action.

We all love the famous movie speeches that motivate and inspire, but one speech or motivational conversation isn’t going to transform your team. What will make a long-term impact 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 acumen 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 TV screens are seemingly endless. Consuming content at the expense of building real relationships is a big problem. Ask yourself whether you’re using your screen as an escape from reality instead of a way to connect with others. Also, consider what content you’re consuming. Many of today’s content creators aren’t the best leaders.

7. You default to thinking about results.

Without results there are no jobs, but top leaders focus on the processes and behaviors that produce optimum results. Direct your attention to essential actions, and the results will follow.

8. You’re constantly giving advice.

When you’re smart and experienced, it’s tempting to offer guidance at every turn, but a relentless drumbeat of advice can hurt your people. Instead of jumping to offer a solution, stop and ask questions to better understand the situation. Often a little bit of coaching can help an people uncover answers for themselves.

9. You’re too hard on yourself.

Leading other people is difficult, and it takes courage. As Mareo McCracken said on 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 OK. Come to terms with it, and have faith that you are in the right role at the right time.

10. You focus on the wrong things.

Key on these 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.

A version of this post first appeared on Inc. It also ran on the LearnLoft blog.

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