Like many other career-minded business professionals, are you still waiting impatiently for that appointment to a leadership position, so that 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.
Everyone knows that leadership means taking the lead, but some forget that there are negative behaviors that can override even the best initiatives. Leadership is not about how well you give orders as the 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:
Don’t ever play 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 the losers in the longer term.
Stop stressing out and worrying out loud publicly. Team members expect leaders to calm their worries, not create or amplify them. At best, worries expressed by others come across as excuses for possible later failures. Every leader has qualms and fears, but only verbalizes their own positive ideas for moving ahead to overcome the challenges.
Never highlight 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. Leaders seek private discussions for negative feedback.
Avoid the perception of being too busy to help others. Real leaders always find time to be accessible and listen to others, and 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.
Don’t use multitasking as an excuse for mediocrity. In every job position, the leader is one that you can count on to demonstrate integrity and quality in everything they do, no matter how many distractions or related tasks must be managed. Mediocrity is a disease that will quickly infect others, and can ultimately bring down your whole company.
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 error-prone and not productive. Co-workers are always looking for positive role models.
Failure to communicate regularly and effectively. If you find yourself with a thousand emails in your inbox, or 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 texting.
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 you and the people around you will see only bad habits, and not your accomplishments. Your reputation and morale will suffer, your consideration for promotions will decrease, and 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. Anyone can improve their own behavior over time, and suddenly finding themselves an “overnight success.”
*** First published on Inc.com on 11/14/2016 ***