5 Mistakes that Cause a Slow Leak in your Influence

By Dan Reiland

We all make mistakes, that’s part of leadership. When you’re leading into the unknown and taking new territory it’s impossible to get everything right – all the time.

Some mistakes, however, are those unintended but avoidable missteps that slowly decrease your influence over time.

They are slow, subtle and therefore not as easily noticed. Your leadership isn’t affected right away like a more dramatic mistake, or bad decision might cause, but little by little your influence is eroded.

It’s like a prolonged leak in one of the tires in your car. You can keep driving for a long time, but eventually, the tire goes flat, and your forward progress comes to an end.

If you don’t fix it, you can’t go anywhere. Worse, I’ve seen some people attempt to drive on a flat with that thump, thump, thump thing happening, and we all know how well that goes.

The scary thing is that because these mistakes are usually slow and subtle as I mentioned, they often go unnoticed or unheeded. Even when someone points them out, the leader just keeps going. I’ve had that happen while driving my car.

At a stop light, a guy points at my tire and calls out loudly. “Your tire is low!” I motion back a friendly wave of acknowledgment, and think “yeah, right, maybe later. I’ve got to keep going right now.” Several days later I’m driving with a thump.

Leading with a thump just doesn’t work. When you know what these mistakes are, you can avoid them.

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Together we could list a good number of this specific kind of mistake, but I’m presenting five of the more commonly experienced.

5 leadership mistakes that cause a slow leak in your influence:

1) Allowing speed and pressure to kill your kindness.

More people — more pressure right? We love people, and it’s a privilege to serve, but let’s be honest, it’s not easy to keep up with all the needs and requests.

Then add speed to the mix and leadership really becomes complex. “Faster” seems like a core leadership value these days. It’s not intentional, but just the way it is.

When speed and pressure are added together, simple kindness can get squeezed out of your daily relationships. That doesn’t indicate that you behave in an overtly mean way, it’s more about the absence of kindness. And that is always noticed and felt.

Those you lead will give you grace for a while, but over time this will catch up with you and decrease your influence.

Slowing down is difficult but necessary. Be intentional about expressing kindness to those you serve and lead.

2) Leading from emotion rather than thinking.

It’s always important to communicate with a sense of authentic emotion – straight from the heart. Leading with that kind of authenticity is just as vital.

However, emotionally driven leadership often delivers poor decisions, confusing or last-minute changes, and ideas that are incongruent with your core values.

When emotions such as discouragement, frustration, anger, or jealousy, etc., are allowed to shape your leadership behavior, you will slowly see a decrease in your overall influence.

Your best leadership always starts with your best thinking. Focused, disciplined and mature thinking is required for your best leadership. Demonstrate your leadership with lots of heart, but first, guide it with right thinking.

3) Questioning people rather than asking questions.

Great leaders ask great questions, but there is a significant difference between asking questions and questioning.

Insightful questions seek purposeful information to help someone, but questioning feels like an interrogation seeking to corner, trap, or even hurt someone.

Questions come from a need for understanding, questioning stems from an inherent place of distrust. It’s rare that a leader does this knowingly, but inner battles that result in things like fear and insecurity can flip questions to questioning.

Questions look for something that is there, questioning presumes upon things that are not there. This quickly decreases a leader’s influence.

4) Leveraging authority over empowerment.

Command and control may seem like an ancient leadership style, but it creeps into the mix more often than you might think.

Its more subtle forms are packaged in things like micro-management, using policy over influence, and pushing a personal agenda. These things will slowly erode anyone’s leadership.

Real empowerment is based on the foundation of trust and does not depend on org-chart based formal authority.

Authority may seem fast and efficient, and in the moment that’s true, but over the long run, authoritative leadership will cost you much of your influence.

Empowerment trusts, values and builds people up. Empowerment embraces freedom with guidelines and recognizes results.

5) Failing to do what you say you will do.

Failure to do what you say you’ll do may be one of the biggest and most common leadership mistakes there is, and it’s so easily avoidable.

I rarely recommend that anyone stop using phrases like: “I’ll do it, or “I’ll take care of it, etc.,” but that would be better than failing to do what you say. But the truth is that it wouldn’t address the real problem.

The real problem often originates in something as innocent as being forgetful or overly busy, but can also represent a character issue. Either way, it will eventually diminish your influence.

The people you serve and lead need to know they can count on you. It doesn’t matter if it’s something small like telling someone you’ll call them in the morning, or you’ll email the information they asked for. If you said you would, you absolutely must do it.

Avoid these “slow leak” leadership mistakes at all costs and your leadership will gain a distinct advantage.

 

This article was originally published at: DanReiland.com

6 Essential Skills for Senior and Executive Leaders

By Dan Reiland

I often meet young leaders who aspire to, in their words, “be in charge.” That’s a normal and healthy desire. I get it, I mean, who wouldn’t rather call the shots if that’s an option, right?!

Well, as you might imagine, there is a little more to the idea of being “in charge.” And my heart and hope is that’s how this post might be helpful.

There is an often-quoted and significant misconception about leadership, and it is that the higher you rise in the organization, the more you can do what you want.

The perception is that because you are the “senior leader” (or one of them) you, therefore, don’t report to anyone.

In fact, the opposite is true, the higher you rise in any organization, the more you give up your rights and the fewer options you have.

Further, the higher you rise in responsibility and authority, the more people you report to, not less. It may not be a formal reporting, but you answer to them nonetheless.

Whether in business or the church, there is a long list of people who senior leaders answer to from stakeholders to the board of directors.

The list includes the customers, key influencers, denominational officials, members and church attendees, partners, donors, and the list goes on. Again, they may not carry formal authority, but they have influence, and they matter.

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There may be few, or perhaps no one above the senior leader on the organization chart, but that does not reflect the realities of little freedom and much responsibility.

Senior leadership is a role that is best understood before you step into it, rather than later. It’s difficult to communicate some of those nuances, but what can be described with clarity are the unique skills and abilities that are a must.

Some of the six skills I’ve listed may seem like any leadership role would need them, but for the senior leader, these skills become non-negotiable.

The critical factor here is that because they are skills, they can be learned. And because they can be learned, you can improve in any or all that you lean into and practice.

6 essential skills:

1) Translate vision into strategy.

Translating vision into a workable strategy requires first the ability to select, trust, develop and work with a leadership team. I’ve never met a senior leader or executive that can do it all his or herself.

In fact, some senior leaders have a personality and wiring that makes them really good at what they do but also creates a few significant gaps that requires a team to make it all happen.

Strategy, (a plan to make the dream become a reality), is a non-negotiable skill for any senior leader.

2) Communicate faith and hope.

The ability or skill to communicate what you believe at a heart level is a must. Further, it needs to become something natural to you. I’ve watched John Maxwell and Kevin Myers do this for years. They just don’t tire of it.

These great leaders’ faith in a person’s ability to become their best self often exceeds that person’s faith in him or herself. Their ability to communicate the hope of a better future for the entire organization is so strong.

Faith and hope also include the idea of communicating calm in a storm and a positive outcome.

The key is that faith and hope must be sincere. As a senior leader, you can’t just read and quote the next big idea. You must have internalized it, own it, and believe it to the core.

3) Raise up and empower leaders.

In a large or very large church, this usually means hand-selecting the lead team. In a smaller church, it may mean selecting key volunteer leaders.

In either case, it always includes the ability to let go of key responsibilities with genuine empowerment for those leaders to do their job.

The senior leaders who struggle most are those who micro-manage and don’t trust their top leaders to do their job.

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4) Demonstrate self-leadership and cultivate spiritual vitality.

If you are or desire to be a senior leader in a local church, self-led spiritual growth toward maturity is a must.

This certainly does not suggest some kind of superiority or better than others notion. In fact, most of us who serve in a senior or executive role of some sort are quick to admit to our flaws and weaknesses.

The good news is that self-awareness and security help you/us get honest with God about who we are and how much we need Him.

Good leaders have good mentors, but self-leadership is required for discipline and consistency.

There is no one there to hold your hand and prompt you in your day to day responsibilities, and your first responsibility is to pursue God and spiritual maturity.

Those you lead depend on your authentic and growing walk with God.

5) Solve problems and make difficult decisions at intricate levels.

The large and more complex, (often organization-wide), problems to solve are multi-dimensional, grey rather than black or white, and do not present a clear or obvious answer.

In fact, they often present multiple options of which others you serve have very strong and differing opinions.

Senior leadership is more of an art than science that requires intuition and judgment calls.

Here’s a candid example, sometimes you must choose from two less than ideal choices.

Another way to see it is that no matter how good the decision, there’s a group who will not be happy. Being able to make difficult decisions is an essential skill for any senior leader.

If you prefer a more clear-cut and black and white world, senior leadership may not be for you.

This isn’t meant to be discouraging, it’s just part of the territory, and an effective senior leader can handle this in stride.

6) Take risks and lead change.

There is no escaping risk and change if you desire progress.

The risks you take are not always public or grand such as initiating a building project or raising millions of dollars.

It might be something private like a conversation that is confrontational nature, but the outcome is significant.

The process of change never ends. Next to momentum, change is something those in senior leadership continuously think about.

Change is disruptive but necessary. Comfort is the enemy of progress and a healthy organization.

This article was originally published at: danreiland.com