Throughout the month, the CONNECT2Lead Blog has focused on mistakes leaders make. You can find articles from the series here. In this post, we’re going to narrow it down to the single worst mistake a leader can make.
Surprisingly, a lot of leaders make this mistake every day. Our workplace vernacular may be to blame. That’s because we use the word “leader” as a synonym for “senior manager” when the accurate definition (“one who leads”) has nothing whatsoever to do with job title or role. Additionally, we attach qualifiers to the word leader saying things like “emerging leader” or “developing leader” instead of simply saying “leader” about anyone who leads.
This terminology suggests that only an elite few are leaders. That’s ridiculous.
Anyone can be a leader. In fact, at times, everyone has been a leader. When you are leading and others are following, you ARE a leader.
In “The Truth about Leadership,” Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner say that the First Truth about Leadership is this: You Make a Difference. YOU. Not someday you, not if-you-get-promoted you, not in-your-daydreams you. YOU make a difference.
They write “The truth is that you make a difference. Somewhere, sometime, the leader within you may get the call to step forward — for the school, the congregation, the community, the agency, the company, the union or the family. By believing in yourself and in your capacity to lead, you open yourself to hearing the call. You open yourself to making a difference in the world.”
Thirty years of global research backs up the Kouzes/Posner point of view. Leaders come in all ages and from all places.
So what does it take to step into your own leadership? Here’s what the authors found. “Before you can lead others, you have to lead yourself and believe that you can have a positive impact on others. You have to believe that your words can inspire and your actions can move others. You have to believe that what you do counts for something. If you don’t, you won’t even try. Leadership begins with you.”
It’s this belief that enables and ennobles you to be an intentional leader. Since others around you are paying attention to what you do, you may be inadvertently leading them in ways you don’t intend. Your understanding that you are a leader + your desire to make the difference you’ve set out to make = your effectiveness as a leader.
Not understanding this is the worst mistake a leader can make. People miss out when they:
– don’t see themselves as leaders,
– don’t lead themselves,
– don’t consider what difference they want to make, or
– don’t remain open to the possibility they can be a leader.
YOU are a leader. Now it’s time to see yourself that way so you can make the difference you want to make in your world.
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