10 Reasons Why You Aren't Growing As a Leader (and Why You Should Still Try)

There’s no shortage of leadership content available. As you’re reading this article, millions of other people around the world are gaining knowledge on how to become better leaders via YouTube, blogs, audiobooks, and podcasts. But the alarming part is, the improvement to content consumed ratio is near non-existent.

If you’re a student of leadership, here are 10 reasons why you may not be getting better:  

1. You stop at “consume.”

Reading and listening to learn are fantastic, but if we don’t put what we take in into practice rather quickly that effort can be for not.  Think of it like a golfer who just hits a lot of golf balls on the driving range but can’t take their practice to the course. Find ways to quickly apply what you learn, no matter how small or insignificant it feels.

2. You view leadership as a title, not a journey.

Got a promotion into a management role? Hate to break it to you, but the title change is not going to make you a leader. Leadership is about action, not a position. View your development into a leader as a long-term journey instead of short-term accomplishment and you’ll earn your position over time.  

3. You’re not as good as you think you are.

Generally speaking, people in management roles aren’t the most self-aware people. In over 80 percent of the 360° Welder Leader Assessments we’ve administered, the leader rates themselves higher than their team rates them. Additionally, research shows 80 percent of people think they are better than average leaders.

Regardless of whether you think you are the best leader ever, self-awareness is a critical component to improving, and there’s no place better to gain the knowledge from than your team.  

4. You focus on words more than action.

I know we all love the famous movie speeches that motivate and inspire a group. One speech or one motivational conversation isn’t going to make a huge impact on your team. I have great news, especially if you’re not into public speaking. What will move the needle long-term are your actions and behaviors because that’s what people remember most. There is nothing more powerful in leadership than your example.

5. You think leaders are born not made.

The age-old debate about whether leaders are born or made has been settled.  Research by Leadership Quarterly found 24 percent of our leadership comes from DNA, while 76 percent is learned or developed. Whether or not you think you have the DNA, everyone has to work hard to develop the skills and anyone can become a better leader.

6. You are glued to your screen.

The choices for entertainment on our phones and television screens are endless. Consuming content at the expense of building real relationships with people is a big problem. Take a step back and ask yourself if you’re using your screen as an escape from reality instead of a way to connect with others. Also, consider what content you’re spending time-consuming. Many of today’s content creators or main characters in popular programs aren’t the best examples of leaders.

7. You default to thinking about results.

Everyone in business knows the results are important. In fact, without results, there are no jobs. But the best leaders focus on the process and the behaviors that produce the best results versus. solely focusing on the outcome. Direct your attention to doing the right things every day that produce the results and then the results will follow.

8. You’re constantly giving advice.

When you’re as smart and experienced as you are, it’s really tempting to offer advice at every turn. But your advice can actually hurt your people, especially if it’s doled out often. Instead of jumping to offering a solution or “advice,” stop and ask questions to better understand the situation. Oftentimes, a little bit of coaching can help an individual uncover the answer for themselves.

9. You’re too hard on yourself.

Leading other people is one of the hardest things you will ever do in your career.  No matter how good you get, you will never be immune to errors or making a wrong decision. There will be times when things don’t go according to plan, and that’s okay. It’s called life. Can come to terms with it and treat yourself to some grace.

10. You focus on the wrong things.

I know you like the sexy things that come with being a leader, but when you boil it down there are a few essentials:   

  • Understand the fundamentals by focusing on relationships built on trust

  • Get the foundation right by having a vision and core values

  • Simplify lives and improve performance by setting standards and holding people accountable

If you found yourself relating to this list, first, congratulations on being self-aware enough to admit your shortcomings.  Second, keep in mind one of my favorite Latin phrases, “nunc coepi” which means “today I begin.” Start fresh today and know leadership is a journey and not a destination.  

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