The success of your business depends to a large extent on your ability to inspire others and lead with authority. But are you sometimes guilty of behavior that serves to undermine your authority and negatively impact your leadership efforts? Business leaders sometimes make mistakes they’re unaware of, but which diminish their standing in the eyes of employees. Once a leader’s authority is lost, it’s hard to regain again.
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Here are actions, traits and other modes of behavior that can sabotage your capacity to lead:
Self-defeating body language. Sometimes the problem is as simple as a leader’s inability to make eye contact with others. Your authority is undermined if you fail to look people in the eye, since it conveys the impression that you’re hiding something. On the other hand, making direct eye contact as you give instructions or offer a pep talk can inspire others to follow your lead.
Some leaders betray their authority with minor tics like nervous laughter or a tendency to raise their voice at the end of a sentence. Nervous laughter suggests that what you’re saying isn’t meant to be taken seriously, while making a statement that sounds like a question can confuse others about your meaning and intentions.
No follow-through. When others fail to keep a promise they make or don’t complete a project, it’s an unfortunate situation. When a leader fails in these areas, he or she breaks the trust they have with people who depend on them to keep their word. Keep the promises you make and don’t make promises you can’t keep. And when you say you’re going to take care of something, follow through and demonstrate you’re good as your word.
Focus too much on oneself. People aren’t inspired by a leader who acts and thinks as if it’s “all about me.” Put your ego aside and celebrate the dedication and achievements of your employees. An informal “thank you” is always appreciated, but a genuine award of bonuses, promotions or pay raises is the best possible way to show you’re a leader who puts your people first.
Changing priorities mid-stream. The business world is riddled with loudly proclaimed new initiatives that sputter to a halt a few weeks or months later. When you announce a new direction to your business and then change your mind along the way, the people who work for you will be understandably confused and frustrated. Worse, they’ll be slow to take your next grand announcement seriously. An effective leader is clear on her goals and has determined a clear-cut set of priorities to guide her towards achieving that objective. People naturally gravitate to a forthright, mission-driven leader.
A lack of passion. A leader who’s aloof or disengaged can never hope to inspire others to follow. Your employees feed off your passion, so it’s critical to display your enthusiasm for the business at every possible juncture. And if you want people to come up with new and creative ways to spur growth, make it clear you welcome this innovative approach by eliminating internal roadblocks or an excessive amount of rules.
Genuine authority doesn’t rely on intimidation or threats. Get rid of any behaviors that undermine your authority and keep you at a distance from the people who want to do the best they can for you and your business.
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