When a new leader begins their role they often get a surprise.

They’re shocked at the time it takes to manage personal and professional relationships at work.

Their success can come down to seeing the warning signs and having the skills to deal with them.

Until you’ve actually been a leader, it’s tricky to develop the specific leadership skills and qualities you need to be effective. To help you get there faster, here are five signs your leadership skills could use some work—and what you can do about it. 

Surprise #1: You really can’t run everything.  

A leader doesn’t need to have a toe dipped in every single pool at work. Sure, you want to know what’s going on and be consulted when necessary. But trying to run everything single-handedly will ultimately lead to burnout, making mistakes, and ineffective leadership.

There are a few instances when micromanaging can be a useful tactic. Learn about them here.

Here are some warning signs you’re trying to run too many things as a leader:

  • You are in too many meetings and involved in too many tactical discussions.
  • There are too many days when you feel as though you have lost control over your time.

Surprise #2: You learn there’s a price to giving orders.

New leaders are often surprised to find they pay a price for being the one to give orders. Often, this is shown in how their relationships can change with coworkers. 

Here are some warning signs to look out for:

  • You have become the bottleneck.
  • Employees are overly inclined to consult you before they act.
  • People start using your name to endorse things, as in, “Stephanie says…”

Surprise #3: You don’t know what’s going on.

Remember how we talked about being too involved in every project, decision, or discussion? There’s another side to that, and it involves being too distant from all of these things and missing important details and information.

Here are some warning signs you don’t know what’s going on at work:

  • You keep hearing things that surprise you.
  • You learn about events after the fact.
  • You hear concerns and dissenting views through the grapevine rather than directly.

Surprise #4: You’re always on display.

As a leader, you’re bound to face the spotlight more often than you did in your previous roles. This feeling of “always being on display” is often a surprise to new leaders. 

Warning signs:

  • Employees circulate stories about your behavior that magnify or distort reality.
  • People around you act as if they’re trying to anticipate your likes and dislikes.

Surprise #5: You feel like you’re on shifting ground.

New leaders don’t always feel the stability and security they expected to in their new role. 

Be on the lookout for these warning signs:

  • You don’t know where you stand with your boss or board.
  • Roles and responsibilities between your boss or board are not clear.
  • The discussions in board or executive meetings are limited mostly to reporting on results and decisions.

Implications on your leadership.

These ‘five surprises’ have tremendous implications on how a new leader should perform their role.

First: Learn to manage strategically rather than focusing on daily operations. Strategic, effective leadership, not diving into the details, can be a jarring transition.

One client, a CEO, said that he initially felt like the company’s “most useless executive,” despite holding all the power.

He needed to learn how to act in indirect ways by:

  • setting and communicating strategy,
  • putting sound processes in place,
  • selecting and mentoring key people who create conditions to help others make the right choices.

At the same time, he needed to learn how to set the tone and define the organization’s culture and values through his words and actions—in other words, demonstrate how employees should behave. To do this, he needed to learn the right leadership skills.

Second: Leaders must recognize that a position does not automatically give the right to lead, nor does it guarantee loyalty.

Leaders must perpetually earn and maintain the moral authority to lead. CEOs can quickly lose their legitimacy if:

  • their vision is unconvincing,
  • if their actions are inconsistent with the values they espouse, or
  • if their self-interest appears to trump the welfare of the organization.

They must realize that success ultimately depends on the ability to enlist voluntary commitment rather than forced obedience—and yes, it takes certain leadership skills and leadership qualities to do so.

By the way, you won’t want to miss these 3 important things to remember on your first day as a new leader. 

Mastering the conventional tools of effective leadership and management may lead to the promotion or appointment of a leader, but these tools alone will not keep you there.

Before you commence your leadership role, ask yourself WHY you want to be a leader in the first place. 

Finally, it’s essential that the leader maintains humility, and must not get absorbed in the role.

Even if others think you are omnipotent, you are only human.

Failing to recognize this will lead to arrogance, exhaustion, and a shortened tenure.

By maintaining a personal balance and staying grounded, an effective leader can achieve the perspective required to make decisions in the interest of the organization and its long-term prosperity.

If you’re interested in going deeper or moving your career to the next level, you’ll also want to have a look at my 1-on-1 coaching services.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check these out, too:

How One Word Can Damage Workplace Culture

9 Stupid Management Practices (and what to do instead)

The 6T’s To Know What To Delegate

This article was originally published on November 25, 2018, and has been updated.

One thought on “5 reasons you need to improve your Leadership Skills

  1. Thank you, Steve for highlighting those leadership must-dos and explaining all with a very natural talent. It takes a great leader like you to talk about them and make them friendly to apply.
    Looking back in time to my leadership role I had, I understand the universality of those principles and how they were , and will be applicable no matter the part of the world one is or the industry is working in.
    I was always believing in trust and its power to keep people engaged, to give them the feeling of belonging and the possibility of growing.
    This is in my opinion fundamental for a good leader- to give the people the need of being important.

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