I have been in both a leadership position and worked with people in leadership roles. I think what amazes me the most is how many people in leadership positions are completely clueless about what it takes to be a good leader. There is a responsibility you take on, not just for yourself and your success, but for the people that report to you and work with you. Your success and the success of your business or the company you work for largely depends upon your team, the work they do and how you make them feel each and every day. When people start to quit and walk out the door, or they start to avoid you or even display any kind of resentment towards you, you are starting to fail as a leader. Here are three reasons why you’re not an effective leader.
1. You lead with your ego
One of my former bosses from years ago once told me that when you arrive at work, leave your baggage and emotions at the door. I believe this doesn’t work anymore. I’m not saying you ought to come to work with all your personal issues, but I don’t think it’s necessary to leave your emotions at the door. What you should leave at the door is your ego.
We all have an ego, but how you express it really determines what type of person and leader you are. As a leader you’re in a position of power, of influence and of authority and when you lead with your ego, that power, influence and authority can quickly become negative.
What you should lead with is your heart. I’m not talking about the heart you wear on your sleeve, but the heart that creates passion, drive, focus, determination, etc. When you lead with your heart, I believe this is the evolved version of your ego. It becomes less about you and more about your team, because you know that working together is when you achieve true success.
2. You are not transparent
I think there was a time when it was acceptable to remain behind the closed doors of your corner office and the only time you interacted with people is when you called them to your office. That no longer works. I know there’s something to be said about open-office spaces in relation to productivity and privacy, but on the other hand it has allowed people at all levels of management to interact like never before.
The open-office space also allows people to be more transparent. You can’t hide in a cubicle and pretend you’re not working, you can see who’s meeting with who, who’s interacting with you and I feel people are more approachable in this setting.
In one of the places I worked, the higher-ups had their own offices, but they only had a wall of glass separating them. So regardless they were not part of the actual open-office space, they were still right there for the whole world to see.
This is just one type of transparency, the other type has to do with communication.
During the times I was in a leadership position, the thing I prided the most was open, transparent communication. If you’re having a bad day, I want to know about it. If I’m under the weather, I’m going to let you know. When we have a meeting, rather than jumping right into talking about work, I want to know how your day is going, what are your plans for the weekend.
At the end of the day we’re human and we all live our own lives. Life itself can be stressful and intense, and sometimes it’s completely impossible to come to work everyday as though life is perfect and you’re content. I think having those conversations, even for a few minutes, allows you to bond with your colleagues and/or your employees in a way that plain old, everyday work conversations don’t allow you too.
I once had a boss that no matter how stressful he was at work with endless meetings, projects and deadlines to meet, he always made time to chat. You could pretty much walk into his office at any given point of the day and just say, “Hey do you have a minute?” and he did. You knew that he not only cared about how well you worked, but how you were feeling as well. Most of our one-to-one meetings would start with, “How are things going?” and it wasn’t just how things are going in the office. This made such a difference in how I felt coming to work and what I was trying to accomplish everyday.
And with my team, if I sensed someone was having a bad day or they just seemed frustrated with something, I would pull them into an office and say, “Tell me what’s going?” And you know what? It can be extremely uncomfortable to talk about something personal or professional that’s bothering you, but it’s also the difference between succeeding or failing at work.
Don’t get me wrong, I realize there are some people in this world that have this uncanny ability to work and succeed no matter the circumstances. Even if all hell is breaking loose in their personal life, you would never know about it at work. Those people are few and far between.
Being transparent in who you are and how you communicate as a leader is so important. It just makes you a little more human and relatable, and I really believe that’s what people are looking for today in the person they call ‘boss’.
3. You don’t believe in EQ
I feel as though EQ has become a “buzzword” or something trendy within the workplace, however for me it is absolutely vital in both life and work. First, what is EQ and what does it mean. EQ specifically stands for Emotional Quotient or EI, which is Emotional Intelligence. It means the capacity of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.
Some characteristics associated with emotional intelligence are:
Howard Gardner, the influential Harvard theorist says, “Your EQ is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them.” Then you have no choice but to invest time and energy in getting to know and understanding the individuals that make up your team. By being both aware of yourself and your emotions, as well as who your employees really are and understanding their emotions, you are developing yourself as a true leader and working towards success.
The qualities and characteristics that define what it means to be a leader today have changed, and for the better. No matter what your title is, if you’re working with people or have people reporting to you, there will be many moments when you’re displaying your leadership skills. Make sure you’re displaying the most mature, evolved and human aspects of those skills and watch the impact you have on the people around you.
A note about the difference between an evolved ego and a weak ego, from Ego: Philosophy and psychology – Encyclopedia Britannica:
“A strong ego is exhibited in the following characteristics: objectivity in one’s apprehension of the external world and in self-knowledge (insight); capacity to organize activities over longer time spans (allowing for the maintenance of schedules and plans); and the ability to follow resolves while choosing decisively among alternatives. The person of strong ego can also resist immediate environmental and social pressure while contemplating and choosing an appropriate course, and strong ego is further characterized in the person who is not overwhelmed by his or her drives (but instead can direct them into useful channels). On the other hand, weakness of ego is characterized by such traits as impulsive or immediate behavior, a sense of inferiority or an inferiority complex, a fragile sense of identity, unstable emotionality, and excessive vulnerability. Perception of reality and self can be distorted. In such cases the individual may be less capable of productive work, because energy is drained into the protection of unrealistic self-concepts, or the individual may be burdened by neurotic symptoms. Ego weakness also underlies the inflated sense of self, which can be associated with grandiosity and a superiority complex.”