When we were younger, we all played the childhood game ‘Follow the Leader.’ The rules were simple: watch the selected leader and copy their actions. It didn’t matter whether the leader made good choices or bad choices, the game required that we follow. As adults, we’ve undoubtedly learned to be confident, self-sufficient workers who don’t need step-by-step instructions to mirror, but in exchange, leadership has taken on a new purpose. Leaders are there to encourage, advise and inspire. Leaders are also given the responsibility of decision making. Of course, there are best practices that many leaders adopt, but what should they avoid? Keep reading for three harmful business practices to avoid when trying to master good leadership.
While it’s common to hear about sympathy (a shared feeling of sadness) and empathy (the ability to share and understand someone’s circumstance), the term apathy is less frequently the topic of conversation. However, apathy can be detrimental to both interpersonal relationships and business. According to Merriam-Webster, apathy is the lack of feeling, emotion, interest or concern.
Sometimes apathy creeps in after being in our career fields too long. Sometimes it is the result of becoming callous toward people who overwhelm us or abuse our kindness. Whatever the cause, it’s vital we find the source of our ‘decline in passion’. Once identified, we must fix the problem for the benefit of those we lead. Your team members need a leader who cares. You should be fully tuned in and interested in both their success and the progress of the business. If you feel yourself growing distant, reach out to a mentor or counselor who can help you find a solution to your apathy.
Ideally, employees should be able to look to their leaders as models of what they should do. However, when leaders behave unprofessionally, the consequences can start to affect the rest of the company. Unprofessionalism can present itself in many forms; a lack of punctuality, failing customer service and poor communication skills (to name a few). No one expects perfection from their leader. But over time, habitually falling into the trap of repeating bad habits, changes the culture of the company. Team members start to justify their own shortcomings by comparing them to the business sins they’ve seen their bosses commit. Instead of living by the mantra “do as I say, not as I do”, aspire to be a blueprint of professionalism for your team.
Fear is a necessary tool for survival. It stems from self-preservation and protects us from danger. But being overly-cautious can be harmful, especially from a leadership standpoint. Your team looks to you for guidance and motivation. And because of your role, in many cases, they must run all major moves by you for approval. If you are afraid of failure, competition, or criticism, you may operate from a place of fear, causing you to decline opportunities and avoid any and all risks. The fear of negative consequences can cripple you, your team and your business. Consequently, it’s important to be honest with yourself when making decisions. Before you come to final conclusions, ask yourself, “Am I leading from a place of fear or justifiable caution?”
Being looked to as a leader is an honor that shouldn’t be taken lightly. You have people who rely on you for their livelihood, personal growth and motivation. They trust you to handle that responsibility with care and make the best decisions for their future. To accomplish those tasks, keep these 3 tips handy and you’ll be on your way to becoming the confident advisor that your team needs in order to thrive.