Leadership is an intentional exercise. If you leave it to chance, the chances are that you will experience power leakage in leadership. Here are 7 areas you need to be conscious about.
#1. Getting over-familiar with people.
There is nothing wrong in building relationships and friendship with people who are under your leadership. But never forget the principle of distance. Leadership that allows people to get too close to you personally can disable you to function well when you need to correct, discipline and persuade them to take action.
#2. Being a caring person.
Caring for others is a good quality. But there is a conflict here with power in leadership. The more you seem to care for people, the more they tend to steal your valuable time. A need that can be met in five minutes might go into a prolonged discussion of personal needs and difficulties if you don’t exercise proper leadership. Be matter of fact in your listening, give to-the-point advice, delegate wherever possible, and instill hope. Do that in quick time and get back to your work of leading. Don’t be pulled into the trap of seeing only the need of one person when you are leading an entire team or organization.
#3. Late intervention.
Leadership is best when there is anticipation of emerging situations. That calls for timely intervention. If as a leader you become a spectator watching others lead the show in a discussion, then there is power leakage. You have to show boldness to step in, take the lead, and control discussions. There will always be people who love to have the limelight, to show off how knowledgeable they are, and those who deliberately try to usurp leadership. Therefore you need to be alert to the fact that leadership is always open to competition and the seat you occupy is envied by many.
#4. Being surprised by information.
One of the mistakes leaders make is when they do not take care to get information from the grassroots. Do not depend on your immediate chain of command alone for critical information. Bypass them and have a secure reporting system in place. The worst thing that can happen in a discussion is when you have to ask, “What is the discussion all about?” It makes you look weak and uninformed. Having vital information with you that demands your absolute attention is a must for any leader.
#5. Not leading with questions.
A leader who exercises power and influence is one who knows to ask the right questions. This helps to question wrong assumptions people have about situations and problems confronting them. Asking the right questions can shake people out of complacency and make people commit themselves to deadlines and plan of action proposed. Questions can help to elicit critical information that might become vital in solving problems or taking negotiations forward. A leader is one who should have persuasive ability and that cannot be true without the ability to ask questions. A simple question like, “What would you have done in this situation?” can get the creative juices flowing for the person concerned.
#6. The Nero effect.
Nero was busy playing his fiddle when Rome was burning. Leaders who close their eyes to immediate needs and substitute them with other lesser pursuits, hobbies, or distractions fall into this category. Problems do not disappear on their own. They have to be tackled with diligence. St. Paul makes that point very clear when he wrote that if a person’s gift is leadership he should exercise it diligently1 which means that he should do it with careful and persistent work or effort. Yes, leadership should be approached as work to be done; not just work to be done for the day but work to exercise leadership.
#7. Forgetting the killer instinct.
Leaders who forget the killer instinct are like athletes who relax when they see the finishing tape allowing others to edge them out. A leader should always be doing critical follow-up to ensure that nothing takes him or her by surprise. Whatever can be foreseen should be anticipated and necessary measures taken. A leader cannot take promises made at face value but should keep reminding people of their commitments often. It might seem annoying but that is part of the killer instinct. Get things done without fail. Don’t leave it to chance.
To conclude, let me say that a leader who exercises power is always on the intent of exercising leadership. In movies you often see the action hero walk inside a bar into the den of villains. No one mistakes his intention. You find others move away. They know a fight is on. That is leadership in action.
1Romans 12:8 Bible
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter F. Drucker