The marketplace continues to change fast, and as it does leaders are still trying to figure out how to best change with it. They are learning the hard way that they must touch the business just as much as they lead it. Leaders need to start rolling up their sleeves, getting their hands dirty, and accepting the fact that to lead during times of tremendous change and uncertainty, you must be courageous enough to face the issues head-on. Confronting the realities of the business – and the people associated with it – is the only way to know the strategic decisions that need to be made, and the financial requirements to support new workplace and marketplace demands. Too many leaders become unreliable because they wait too long to act during uncertain times.
Many leaders don’t have survival instincts and thus are not familiar with the mindset, attitude and actions required to transition into a more frontline leadership role. When survival instincts kick-in, they focus you on reacquainting yourself with the needs and demands of an evolving landscape – one that requires leaders to be more responsible, trustworthy and reliable than ever before. Leadership is becoming more complex as the rules for business engagement radically change. Consequently, yesterday’s operating standards, best practices; competitive advantage, intel and know-how just aren’t as effective as they used to be. Yet leaders continue to play an outdated business game that makes their leadership principles, decisions and perspective outdated and increasingly unreliable.
The marketplace is immersed in change management – and many leaders are lost in how to confront it, lead through it and reinvent themselves and the business when challenged to face it. They lack the clarity of purpose to gain widespread support, the consistency to stay the course, and the courage to challenge the status quo. Instead of working to make things better, they wallow in the political sandbox – one day they are your friend and the next day your adversary. They get so caught up in the noise that it obscures their attention to detail and ability to make solid, well informed decisions. They are so interested in trying to accommodate multiple agendas that they lose sight of the most important ones.
As you continue your journey toward becoming a more transparent, effective, and responsible leader, be aware of these five things that make it difficult for employees to trust your judgment and reliability as their leader.
1. Lack Clarity of Purpose
It’s hard to trust and rely on leaders that communicate their expectations in generic, glossy terms rather than in direct, clear and purposeful ways that hold them equally accountable. More leaders are becoming followers because they can’t face the reality that they are ill-prepared to confront and deal with change and uncertainty.
Without clarity of purpose, you cannot unite a team that has each other’s backs. It’s a clear sign that you have lost your game – and lack even the fundamentals of being a 21st century leader. Leadership is not just a role and a responsibility, it is a set of skills and characteristics that should be centered on enabling the potential of your employees and the organization you lead. When clarity of purpose is missing, so is the ability to enable their – and your – full potential.
2. Lack Consistency and Focus
These days many leaders do and go where the wind blows. This lack of consistency and focus makes it impossible to be reliable and on top of their game. These leaders can quickly transition from being logical to illogical in their thinking and critical reasoning, which makes it even more difficult to trust their judgment. As more leaders play it safe – rather than lead in ways that represent what they stand for – the best interests of the organization suffer.
Without consistency and focus, it is impossible to identify and stay the course of change management. Perhaps this explains why more leaders have become more reactive versus proactive. Lack of consistency and focus are obvious signs that a leader doesn’t have survival skills – and certainly lacks what I call the immigrant’s perspective on business leadership.
3. Lack Courage to Evolve
The fight and the will to make things better is a mandatory ingredient to leadership success and represent the hard-earned stripes of a reliable leader. Unfortunately you will never find this as a requirement in a job description (this is an example of how out-of-touch corporations have become).
Without strategy, change is merely substitution, not evolution. Many leaders lack the courage to evolve because they are afraid to hold themselves accountable to change. In fact, most leaders don’t trust themselves enough to define their strategy for change as this is the ultimate sign of accountability and responsibility. Believe me; a good leader knows when it’s time to reinvent themselves. But because they don’t believe that their organization will value such change and/or aren’t willing to invest in them to reinvent themselves, they don’t act – and thus the negative consequences abound.
If you lack the courage to continuously evolve, don’t become a leader.
4. Lack Preparation and Attention to Detail
With all of the politics and noise that surrounds leaders in the workplace, they are susceptible to bad habits – two of them being lack of preparation and attention to detail. Just observe how leaders rarely take a lot of notes in meetings, lack real engagement and simply play the role of a positional leader (leveraging the title). They may offer occasional commentary – but rarely with the mindset of preparation and accountability.
These types of leaders go from meeting to meeting throughout the course of their day sharing their perspectives and opinions on things. Over time they begin to lose track of their commitments – what they promised and/or were responsible to do to assure tangible outcomes and results (that their employees were depending upon and reliant upon their leader to deliver).
As leaders are expected to do more with less and their frontline efforts heighten, they forget to plan and lose the attention to detail along the way. This makes it difficult to step back and pick-up the pieces because so much of what was discussed has evolved and they have lost track of the conversation sequence and the core impetus to build momentum upon the objectives that were discussed. As employees grow frustrated with their leaders, they become less dependent and reliant on their leadership role. This is why employees must manage their boss.
Unfortunately, many of today’s leaders frequently remind us that the guiding principles of great management have been lost and their lack of preparation has further weakened their ability to most effectively lead. Perhaps this explains why many leaders over commit and under deliver in their quest to inspire others – only to perpetuate unreliability.
5. Don’t Always Lead the Right Agendas
For many leaders, leadership has become more about playing to win the political game – rather than a responsibility to master the art, science and responsibility of guiding people, teams and organizations rightly. More leaders are revealing their true intentions of accomplishing their individual goals to accelerate and reach their career aspirations. Their priorities become embedded in advancing their own leadership agenda, and they are equally mindful of other leaders’ agendas that they must support in order to advance their own.
This is why you’ll find many leaders exercising their influence amongst others – only to manipulate them into supporting the agenda(s) that are of importance to them. As I said, one day a leader can be your friend, and the next day your foe. As such, one day a leader can be relied upon and the next day they vanish – nowhere to be found – only to reappear when you are needed to fuel their agenda(s) – rather than the right agenda that is focused on the betterment of a healthier whole.
Sound complicated? You can’t let it be, it’s the reality. I’ve just revealed what many employees think about their leaders but, rarely (if ever) feel safe talking about with them, as they fear the potential negative consequences. Perhaps having this discussion can be more objective than you might think. You may find out more about your employees and the organization you work for by putting things on the table and having a transparent conversation with them. At the very least, employees deserve not to be blindsided by their leaders’ agendas and must become more knowledgeable about where they fit and what it means to them.
The unpredictability and lack of leadership preparedness in today’s uncertain and rapidly evolving business climate makes it extremely difficult to rely on any one person or leader. I am certainly not trying to be a pessimist, but rather a realist. My optimism allows me to hope that leaders will inject themselves with a much needed dose of accountability – one that will require them to check their egos at the door, dig deep into their souls and search for the mental and strategic capacity to make things better for the organization and the people they lead. I am simply pointing out the things that people are thinking about, but that very few are acting upon.
Follow me on Twitter @Glenn Llopis.