Exceptional leaders recognize and avoid these pitfalls of leadership to continue growing and leading successful teams:
1. Confusing manipulation with leadership
A lot of the “leadership” executed by non-developed leaders is actually just some form of manipulation. Manipulation can be used successfully and honestly by a leader who understands that it’s a short-term strategy, but it can’t take the place of a real purpose or mission for your team. Developed leaders can discern what their teams need and when they need it. They make strategic decisions that will not put their credibility or long-term goals at risk.
2. Trying to lead everyone the same way.
It’s amazing how much time leaders and managers spend thinking about incentives and promotions and how little we spend learning to understand temperaments and what motivates different kinds of people. A leader who does not study temperament theory will not be able to successfully lead a broad group of diverse people. This will cap their leadership potential.
3. Believing that they are a “finished product”.
The best leaders are learning leaders. They are observers and students of leadership. Show me a leader who thinks he or she has nothing to learn, and I will show you someone who will be obsolete in a matter of a few years (if not already). The work-in-progress leader is an attractive leader who will gather skills, insights and followers very quickly.
4. Trying to lead by building consensus.
Top leaders know when a situation calls for a consensus and when a simple decision from the leader is needed. If a leader repeatedly gets this wrong, he can work very hard and get almost nothing done.
5. Forgetting that leadership is not a talent.
Effective leadership is a skill and a craft. It can be learned only through a unique combination of study and experience. When people describe a “talented” leader or a “born leader”, they’re either mislabeling the leader’s hard work or they’re describing the leader’s charisma. Charisma is to leadership what a fresh paint job would be to a car. It can make for a more appealing presentation, but the actual performance will come from some deeper, more powerful place.
6. Not understanding that leadership is really just a powerful form of influence.
When you boil down everything a leader can do to succeed with a team, you end up with one word: influence. Exceptional leaders influence decisions, enthusiasm, actions, possibilities, confidence, beliefs, direction, and culture. Influence is what an exceptional leader does, and it shows up in myriad ways. The tactics can and will change; the definition will not.
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