So you’re new to being a leader and want to get off to the best possible start in your role. One of your first steps should be examining your attitudes and behaviors to identify which ones are right and which ones need adjusting. Most new leaders start out with good intentions but they often make what can be career limiting moves because they don’t have good role models or simply lack the experience to recognize the long term impact their actions can have.
To help you avoid those mistakes here are the top 5 mistakes that new leaders make, all of which are easy to avoid.
- Role rhetoricDon’t believe the rhetoric that managing is the same as leading just because most organizations use the terms interchangeably. Whilst there are probably many managers in any organization, the reality is there are very few true leaders. Your goal is to become one of them.A manager is concerned with operational matters that assist in task completion. They are good at “doing things right”: following rules, meeting legislative requirements and keeping everything running to schedule.
Leading is about “doing the right things”, deciding from the myriad of tasks which ones will move your team closer to the strategic goals of the organization. It’s about finding a new path and disrupting the way things are done to make them better.
You need to find a balance between these competing roles as the reality is unless you are in a senior position you will be required to both manage and lead to be successful.
- Mindset mixupIf you go into the role with a mindset that says to people “I am here to lead you” or “I know better than you”, then you are likely encounter a negative or submissive attitude in response. It may be that you have good intentions, such as showing you are a strong leader, but your mindset is mixed up.
A more helpful mindset says “I am here to support you” or “I want us to learn from each other”. This tells people that you truly understand what it takes to create a successful team and is far more likely to result in a positive, supportive reaction from your team.
- Philosophical faux pasLeading isn’t just about the decisions you make and the actions you take. It’s also about the philosophy that underpins them. You will be mistaken if you think your team will automatically figure out your philosophical stance. This is a faux pas that has seen many a new leader stumble.
Developing a well defined philosophy then communicating it to your team will ensure they are clear on where you stand. This means that even when you aren’t around they will know what you would do in a given situation. It also gives you a framework from which to operate, making you more aware of why you lead they way you do.
The result is you are seen as a leader who stands for something rather than one who will fall for any new idea that comes along. This is the kind of leader that people want to follow even if the path they are being taken down is unfamiliar or tough going.
- Style stymiedWhilst often confused with a philosophy, your style as a leader is the way you demonstrate your philosophy. Two leaders can have a similar philosophy whilst implementing it using very different styles. Trying to copy someone else when it is not in keeping with your natural style will see you come across as a fake leader.
Identifying your style begins with examining yourself to understand the background you come from, the styles you have been exposed to and the lessons you have learned from being on the receiving end of other leader’s styles.
The best leaders know that their style needs to be fluid to allow for the individual nature of the people they lead and the situations they will find themselves in. Having a “one size fits all” style will create obstacles for you as a leader. The secret is to be true to yourself whilst remaining flexible enough to bend with the prevailing conditions rather than attempt to remain unmoved in the face of competing forces.
- Communication conundrumCommunicating as a leader can be confusing, especially when dealing with a diverse range of people. You are required to meet the communication needs of your team, other disciplines, your peers on the leadership team, senior leaders, customers, suppliers and others. Each of them wants and needs different information from you.
You need to consider the variety of communication mediums available to get your message across, the nuances of communicating with one person, a small group or large audiences and finally, the individual preferences people have that are influenced by their personality style, cultural background, gender, age, etc.
It is no wonder that new leaders often struggle to get their ideas across as everything goes through a range of filters on its path from the mind of the leader to that of the receiver. The best leaders are master communicators, learning to watch and listen for the signs of ineffective communication knowing that early intervention is the secret to unlocking the communication conundrum.
Karen Schmidt from Let’s Grow! has a passion for growing frontline managers into frontline leaders. Her philosophy is simple… she believes that being a great leader is like being a great gardener. She uses this approach to help people understand how to develop a more natural approach to leading that yields results. To access her wide range of free information resources visit http://www.letsgrow.com.au