You can read a dozen books on leadership and attend just as many leadership seminars, but your employees won't follow your lead if you make any of these five common errors:
1. Trying to lead before establishing credibility.
People will only follow you if they believe that you know what you're doing. Credibility doesn't come from a job title or your position on the latest organization chart. Neither can it be "willed" into existence simply because you wish it were there.
Fix: Credibility, like trust, can only be earned over time. If you've got a track record of success, you'll need to communicate clearly why that success is still relevant. If you're new to the job, you'll have to grow that credibility from scratch. Good luck!
2. Trying to lead before there's a relationship.
Even if you've got a truckload of credibility, people won't follow your lead if they don't feel a personal connection. If you're the manager, they may obey direct orders so as to keep their jobs, but they won't go the proverbial "extra mile" that true leadership inspires.
Fix: The only way to build relationships is to truly care about them as individuals and frequently showing honest curiosity about them, their ideas and the work that they're doing. This takes time, effort, and one-on-one attention.
3. Having a wildly different belief system.
Conflicting beliefs create conflicting behaviors. It's almost impossible to lead people who hold beliefs that are wildly different from yours. For instance, if employees feel they're "working for the weekend," your leadership won't inspire them to work longer hours.
Fix: Unfortunately, it's impossible to change other people's beliefs. You have two choices: 1) replace your employees with people who share your beliefs, or 2) change your beliefs to match those your employees. (E.g. "Let's get this done and party Friday night!")
4. Having goals that are incompatible.
Leadership is impossible when employees know that a would-be leader will be rewarded even if the employees get the shaft. This is why leadership (other than the obligatory lip-service) is almost non-existent inside large publicly-held corporations.
Fix: If you want to be a real leader, you and your employees must have compatible (although not necessarily identical) compensation plans, career development opportunities, and risk/reward trade-offs.
5. Communicating YOUR way not THEIR way.
If you communicate using words that your employees don't understand or hold in contempt, they cannot and will not follow you. Engineers, for instance, chuckle when managers talk in biz-blab. Similarly, technical jargon alienates business majors.
Fix: Use the vocabulary and style of communication that's most common among your employees, regardless of your natural way of thinking and writing. Think of it like learning the local language when you move to a foreign country.
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