Four Common Errors that Limit a Leader’s Ability to Influence

By: Major James Dollard

Commanding Officer, Recruiting Station Orange County

There are many roles people take on that require leadership; such as, being a parent, a teacher, a coach, a friend, or a key person within an organization or group. Unfortunately, leadership is often mislabeled, misrepresented, and not clearly understood. One of the great leadership gurus, Warren Bennis compared leadership to beauty. “To an extent, leadership is like beauty: It’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.”

Leadership deals with people. It’s learning to gain the advantage through the perceived barter of taking them to their next level in life. Leaders drive action by being able to influence people’s interpretation to the environment and their reaction to events.  When we were born, our minds were pure, natural, and whole, as if to represent a blank canvass ready to be designed into a unique masterpiece shaped by our environment and the influencers within our life. A leader is only as effective as their ability to be able to generate the confidence and positive energy within people to do what is required to win.

No one has ever said leadership is easy. Avoiding the common errors of leadership will give you the advantage of bringing your people to a state that allows them to dominate.

Common Error #1: Inability to Connect.

A common trap that leaders fall into is looking at others as though they are a reflection of themselves; thinking that everyone should have the same drive, work ethic, motivation, desires, and understanding as they do. People are unique in the way that they think and interpret the environment. A great leader seeks to understand individual desires, needs, talents, fears, and reactions to situations. Being able to see the situation through their perspective will gain their confidence to do whatever is required to win.

Common Error #2: Lack of emotional control.

A leader controls the emotional health of an organization. Our emotions directly correlate with our thoughts, actions, and decisions. Leaders often feel the pressure of meeting intense time lines and demands that add levels of stress. However, they cannot allow this to produce emotions that are contrary to building a winning team. Emotions are contagious. When a leader is aggravated, the reaction of their people will be that of aggravation. When everyone is aggravated, their thoughts, decisions, and actions are consistent with what aggravated people do. Leaders must maintain control of their emotions and resist the urge to create chaos by generating emotional states that are counterintuitive to winning.

Common Error #3: Lack of Respect.

Having people under your charge does not give you the right to disrespect them by yelling and berating.  That is not leadership, it is a temper tantrum. It’s childish behavior that creates an environment of fear and being out of control. When you push your people into a state of fear, they lose their creativity, desire to excel, and ability to accept risks. Organizations are defined by the uniqueness and brilliance of their people. The fastest way to marginalize your people is to create an environment of disrespect and fear.  People do things with the intention of being successful; therefore, when they don’t produce the results you are looking for, seek to understand what the person was thinking and make it an educational experience. Your responsibility as a leader is to train, mentor, and develop your people to be successful.

Common Error #4: No longer seeking personal development.

Leaders will often become overwhelmed with their responsibilities and forget about their own personal development. Great leaders become obsessed with becoming more effective in influencing people by regularly attending seminars, reading books, creating discussion groups, and other activities directed at personal growth and development. Leaders must maintain a strong desire to be coachable and a student of life.

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