What Causes A Leader’s Paint To Chip?

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Here are 10 reasons why leaders make things unnecessarily complicated for themselves and those they work with…

  1. Too many leaders don’t handle conflict particularly well – What is leadership, after all, but the ability to get smart, capable people to want to to stop working on their priorities and work on yours, instead? And that, my friends, is often all about conflict.
  2. Too many leaders think that leadership is only about managing ‘down’ the chain – But try getting something truly meaningful done without the full, ongoing support from your boss, peers, and others inside (and out) of the organization. In all probability, you can’t. Not if it’s something really worth doing, anyway.
  3. Too many leaders fail to hold themselves accountable as they would others – Sure, they may think they do, they may even pretend they do, but we know differently. We see differently, don’t we?
  4. Too many leaders don’t give nearly enough attention to their own leadership skills – Leadership development doesn’t happen by osmosis, it takes both intention and attention. As it says on my business card, “Becoming a better leader is an intentional activity.”
  5. Too many leaders fail to connect their actions to their company’s core business metrics – Sure, they’re busy, but what are they really achieving that’s above-and-beyond the basic responsibilities of the job?
  6. Too many leaders insist they don’t have time to further educate themselves – The latest Wall Street Journal tagline really nails it: “People who don’t have time make time to read The Wall Street Journal.” Too, there’s always Leadership Haiku, my book. It’s my attempt to creatively, engagingly, and thought-provokingly demystify the art, science, and practice of exemplary leadership – 3 lines and 17 syllables at a time.
  7. Too many leaders measure their success with the wrong criteria – Money? Power? Prestige? Sure. But how much fun are they having? How aligned is what they do with their core values? How grateful are they to be able to truly make a difference in other people’s lives? How physically, emotionally, creatively, and courageously fit are they? And, of course, how vibrant are their relationships at home and outside of work?
  8. Too many leaders work on the wrong things – I call it ‘productive procrastination’, when we confuse the work we happen to be doing with the work we really need to be doing. Similar, maybe, but more often than not, decidedly different. (Examples: Catching up on your emails during a conference call, instead of actively contributing; firefighting the latest surprise news instead of creating channels to learn about the priority changes being considered.)
  9. Too many leaders rarely say anything interesting enough for people to even want to follow their lead – Years ago I heard a great description of middle managers: “Store and forward devices, with filters.” Anyone who just apes the company line without first making sense of it is missing a huge leadership opportunity.
  10. Too many leaders are not resilient enough – Stress is a non-optional part of most jobs, but how we handle stress, and the strain we do or do not feel as a result – that is, our hardiness, resilience, and ability to manage crises – can most definitely be learned and better managed.

What to DO about this?

If you recognize any of these affects in the leaders around you, buy them a cup of coffee (or a beer) and engage in a little downtime. Just getting to know them a little better can go a long way. Why? Because people are sometimes so stuck in their roles that they forget to be human and increasingly isolate themselves, from others, which further exacerbates the dysfunction. But when someone reaches out to them, there’s often a wonderful humanizing effect that kicks in. It’s worth trying to help make that happen.

If, on the other hand, you’ve started to recognize some of these attitudes and behaviors in yourself, buy yourself that coffee or beer – yes, you’ll want to do something about your ‘peeling paint,’ but you also deserve to celebrate this important moment in your self-awareness, too.

Cheers!

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