Are you a career-minded business professional waiting impatiently for that appointment to a leadership position, so you can begin demonstrating your real leadership ability?
In reality, you are already being evaluated for leadership by the habits and attributes you demonstrate today--so now is the time to sharpen your focus and behavior, not later. There are negative behaviors that can override even the best initiatives.
Leadership is not about how well you give orders in the role of boss--it's much more about what you do than what you say.
In that context, here is a list of things from my experience that you need to stop doing now to qualify as a leader.
1. Playing the blame game
Blaming something or someone for any failure, however slight, is a sure way to get you branded as a non-leader.
Everyone makes mistakes, so accepting responsibility and learning from the consequences rather than denying culpability is what separates winners from losers in the longer term.
2. Publicly stressing out and worrying out loud
Team members expect leaders to calm their worries, not to create or amplify them. At best, worries expressed by others come across as excuses for possible later failures.
Every leader has qualms and fears. The best ones verbalize only their own positive ideas, so they can move ahead to overcome their challenges.
3. Highlighting the negatives of others or the company
Leadership is all about highlighting positives, rather than punishing negatives among team members. People who speak critically of co-workers, friends, and customers are positioning them as scapegoats for later failure.
Good leaders seek private discussions for negative feedback.
4. Coming across as being too busy to help others
Real leaders always find time to be accessible and listen to others. They make genuine offers to help.
Being "too busy" or overwhelmed is the most common excuse for leadership failure. Your skills in prioritizing, managing time, and delegating are the antidote to the busy perception.
5. Using multitasking as an excuse for mediocrity
In every job position, the leader is the one you count on to demonstrate integrity and quality, no matter how many distractions or related tasks he or she is managing.
Mediocrity is a disease that will quickly infect others, and can ultimately bring down your whole company.
6. Procrastinating and keeping your work area unorganized
If it looks to others like you're out of control in your present assignment, you'll never be considered for a leadership position or more responsibility. Doing things haphazardly and procrastinating is likely to cause errors and hinder productivity.
Co-workers are always looking for more positive role models.
7. Failing to communicate regularly and effectively
If you find yourself with a thousand emails in your inbox, or if you regularly don't bother to follow up or call people back, it's unlikely that anyone will consider you for a leadership position.
Communication must be consistent, timely, and efficient in all media types--whether written, oral, or texted.
Some of these behaviors slip out of all of us in extreme environments. The challenge is not to let them become habitual, and to exhibit more good habits than bad ones.
Otherwise, the people around you will see only your bad habits and not your accomplishments. Your reputation and morale will suffer, your opportunities for promotions will decrease, and your productivity will suffer.
Leadership habits and attributes don't happen as part of a promotion, or automatically appear after years of work. The best habits are learned by proactively taking small steps forward every day, learning from failures, and highlighting the strengths you already have.
You can improve them over time, and suddenly find yourself an "overnight success."