So, time goes by and you have become an experienced officer knowing the intricate parts of your posts or several posts as it is likely, your agency has sent you all over the map to work posts that were left vacant or needed a temporary fill-in because of call-offs or other staffing wear and tear related reasons.
At this time, you are probably thinking about applying for a supervisory position as you now have the confidence to work any challenge given to you and do it with the expertise it requires. There are many ways to come to the position of leadership or supervisory titles but regardless, it is very exciting and a proud moment for you.
Accepting a leadership position isn’t all about authority and glory. Sure, you can feel good about the accomplishment but you mustn’t lose sight of the many pitfalls of becoming a supervisor or leader of any rank or title. There goes a lot of risk with this kind of challenge and it is important you know what some of these traps are or what kind of barriers you may be facing when you make that goal.
There are so many different ways to be chosen to be a leader. Hopefully, it is mostly based on your skill set, experience and abilities to do the job chosen for or appointed to in the agency. Some leaders are called up for political reasons while others are more practical or pragmatic in nature. They're asked by others to step up and lead. To take the challenge and run with it.
Most employees will have worked their way to the position. They started in a lower position and rose through the ranks to obtain the title of leader. And still, other leaders accidentally stepped into the role. These leaders saw a need which needed to be fulfilled. No one else was stepping up so they decided to step in and do something about it. No one called them. No one asked them to do it. They just did it.
Hopefully, you get the message here that there is a difference between being a supervisor and a leader. Leadership is not positional, while supervisory roles are just that. Whatever way you became a leader, it's okay and you should be proud of your accomplishment. You did the work to become one. Whether it was the choice of others, rising through the ranks, or choosing yourself. You're at a point in your life where you are a leader!
Sometimes we become leaders by accident or just the mere need for somebody to step up and get things done in a right and meaningful manner. It leaves us wondering what leadership means for the most part and how it impacts you. To be perfectly honest, it can mean many different things.
Leadership means that there will be people who are called followers. These are people who are watching what you do. They're waiting for your next move so they can follow in your steps. You may not always see who your followers are but they're out there. They can be friends, family members, or complete strangers.
Be on the lookout for who's following you. Keep in mind, not all followers are watching you to learn from your skills but rather, the opposite, to criticize your decision making or performance efforts.
Being a leader means you have responsibility. "With great power comes great responsibility." How does this relate to you? You've been given the power to lead others. You have influence over your followers. This gives you power. With this power comes great responsibility. Be sure to lead with this thought in mind and never forget who you got to that point in your career, to begin with.
Now you have to be aware that whatever you say or do, is on you. Your choices no longer affect just you. That's right. Your choices now affect others. Your followers may feel the repercussions of the choices you make. The bad choices you make will reverberate through your group, shift or agency.
No choice made in an official or unofficial capacity is separate from your leadership of the family or your team. They are all connected either socially, ethically, politically or morally.
Now you know what being a leader means. You're attracting followers. You're given great power but also have a great responsibility. And your choices now affect more than yourself. The choices you make affect everyone you touch and everything you do. There will be times when you believe no one is watching you. That's a lie.
Once you become a leader, someone will be watching you. All you should do is watch the news and you'll see how our leaders are watched. Your steps will be scrutinized. Your decisions will be questioned and eyes will be watching you. Therefore you, as a leader, need to be consciously aware and always undoubtfully, very vigilant.
This was not said to frighten you. It is not meant to scare you away from leadership. Not at all. Instead, it's meant to draw you into a deeper level of commitment and comprehension or understanding of leadership and what may come your way. This book was written for such a purpose. It is our intention that you will understand there will be trials and tribulations as a leader.
Leadership is an inside-out job. It takes responsible attitudes and behaviors to make it work effectively. Keep in mind, doing tasks or taking roles of leadership flows from our beliefs and the choices we make, not titles, status or position.
Certainly, who we determine what we do, but ultimately leadership is proven by our actions. So much of leadership is described in terms of traits or abilities. But from a practical standpoint, what do leaders actually do?
More importantly, what can you do if you aspire to lead or lead with greater impact? That is what this is all about. Keep in mind, leadership also has pitfalls and before you can examine your leadership style, you must know yourself. This chapter is focused on traps or pitfalls but before you can recognize the hazards, you must know yourself better than others.
To begin the leader’s journey, you first need to lead the only person you are truly in charge of - yourself. Leonardo da Vinci said, “There is no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.” Taking charge of your own life is the just the beginning, but it’s arguably the most important step towards becoming a leader.
Therefore, you must know these things before we go on. To grow more it takes to know more. Active learning fuels all leadership growth. Begin your leadership journey by focusing on these three areas.
Know yourself. Self-examination is harder than it seems. Focus on what you can control. Assess what’s important and what matters. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Follow through on your goals and priorities. Knowing and mastering yourself is the first step toward leadership.
How you deal with yourself is fundamental to how you will deal with others. Know who you are – deal with the reality that fits the good, the bad and the ugly. What matters is what you’re made of and what you believe and how well you can express that not just in words but also in actions. You need to draw on resources that are internal and your personal belief system.
Know how others know you. How do you come across to others? Is the perception the kind you want it to be and does it accurately reflect who you really are? It is important to know that your growth as a leader is based on increased self-awareness, so you make sure that you’re really candidly, truthfully communicating or transmitting the information that you want, and it’s important to make sure you’re keeping that energy and perception positive.
Know what is important. Do you take the time to reflect on your priorities and goals? Use the tool of reflection several times a week to stay on top of things. Do an overall strategic plan for yourself. Ask yourself - what do I need to do to move my priorities forward and then there are the 10 minutes a day thinking about it.
The examples of these successful leaders show how leadership originates within. True knowledge is the foundation of leadership, and that includes self-examination, self-awareness, and reflection. They create the kind of internal content you need to be a leader. By engaging in a few intentional activities, you can begin to build the character and self-mastery that achieves leadership:
Find your meaning. What’s really important to you? What are your values, interests, and passions? What opportunities do you have to pursue them every day? How can you make meaning while making money? How can you make meaning and add value for others? Write down the answers to these questions and revisit and revise them as you grow as a person and leader.
Get serious about thinking. Make time to reflect. Do it right now and every day. Ask the big questions and the small ones. Remember, the subject is you, not everybody else.
Review your life and objectives. Revise your priorities. Grade your performance. Set new goals. In addition to a few minutes of daily reflection, set aside some longer times periodically for more thorough examinations.
Self-motivate. Motivation is why we do what we do. Remind yourself of why you do what you do. Keep your eyes on the prize. Stay focused on your goals. Keep yourself aware of the impact your actions and decisions have on those around you. Maintain the standard you have set for yourself. Keep the promises you’ve made to yourself.
Enjoy the pursuit – We are happiest when we are in pursuit of our goals, even happier than when we achieve them. Enjoy the pursuit of happiness. Find opportunity in obstacles.
Practice gratitude, recognizing and appreciating the gifts you’ve been given. Gratitude and happiness are essential to self-mastery. Be your own boss, in the truest sense of the words, not necessarily as self-employed but always as self-lead. Master the trajectory of your own life first, and your leadership will be authentic and true. To truly lead and make a difference in the world, you must start by leading yourself.
There will be booby traps or political and realistic landmines that could possibly derail your ability to lead. But you have can sidestep some of the traps that are laid in front of leaders. Hopefully, when you read this part of the book, you will be enlightened and see the gift that others who learned the art of leadership through their own efforts, mentors, and experiences.
We want this to be a gift that in many cases, many leaders were never given. Insight into the traps that many leaders fall victim to as many can be avoided or prevented if you are paying attention and able to see or uncover every single instance or trap you may encounter along the way to your career and its journey towards your personal goals.
It is hoped we are able to cover four (4) of the major traps. You'll also be provided with instruction on how to overcome the leadership traps you'll encounter. It is also hoped after reading this chapter or part of the book you'll be able to engage other leaders in and on a better and higher level and understanding.
Sharing with younger leaders the traps you've discovered and how they can avoid them as well. Keep in mind that your lessons learned should always be shared. Knowledge is power and public knowledge or sharing what you have already faced or overcome can help others come through these traps as well. But sharing is not necessary with those who are younger than you in the leadership role. You must reach out and help those who came before you and share your knowledge as well.
Once you realize this, your difficulties can be lighter as you'll be able to seek out others who have been in your situation. It won't always be easy. There will be days you'll want to discard your title as a leader. I encourage you not to give into this feeling. It's only going to be temporary as you weave your way through the web of traps and pitfalls.
Once you arrive on the other side, you'll be glad you stuck with leadership. You'll have gained new skills based on your own lessons learned as well as others. You'll have new experiences and stories to share on how a leader grows. You'll be better able to relate to those leaders who have failed and fallen short. This is where the value of your role as a leader becomes exponentially important.
The four pitfalls we'll discuss in this part of the book are Isolation, Greed, Settling, and Avoidance.
Pitfall # 1 – Isolation
There's an old saying that goes around about leadership. It goes like this - "Leadership is a lonely place to be." The worst part about this is that the saying is often true. Leaders tend to lean towards a reclusive type of mindset. This is the first trap we would want to talk about. Isolation in leadership often happens as you gain stature and begin to see success come your way. You start to see yourself in a different perspective or role. You become someone others seek out.
The problem arises due to the fact you only have so much time in your day. Just like everyone else, you have 24 hours to get things done. With everyone clamoring for attention, you begin to feel overwhelmed and draw back.
Revealing yourself to a trusted few or if it's bad enough, no one else. Sometimes it is the nature of the beast to create this reclusive feeling and your needs to resist the temptation to isolate yourself from those who need to work with you or even family who sense a dramatic change in you or your demeanor.
Why do we do this? Most likely it's because we begin to feel guilty that we cannot help or meet with everyone who desires our attention. We feel if we can't meet with one, we shouldn't meet with any. And the vicious trap of isolation begins to wrap its dirty hands around you. To avoid the feeling of letting others down, you withdraw to your own world and take care of your own business.
Neglecting often, somebody else. Can you see how isolation is a trap? You become withdrawn and begin to lose the personal touch you originally brought to the role you successfully attained. You can break this trap. It's possible and this book is going to give you some words of wisdom on how you can overcome this dangerous situation.
The first thing you need to do is realize you can't reach or please everyone. There's no possible way for you to meet everyone's needs. You're one person and you're limited in the number of people you can personally touch.
Now, this isn't an undesirable thing. It's the truth and the sooner we're able to come to grips with it, the sooner you're able to break free of the reclusiveness or level of isolation.
Next, you need to realize you can do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. This is quite the struggle as our desire is to help everyone. But we can't touch everyone. Which is why you must start with the one person you can help.
Reach out and offer a helping hand to one person who needs it. Don't worry if you can't offer the same to everyone else. Focus on this one person. Give them the attention they need and push them forward.
Now, here's the really cool part. By starting with one person, you're actually helping more than the one. Think of it as a domino effect. This person you helped, he'll go on to help another person. Maybe more. The help you have given him or her has now been extended to others. And you've helped not just one but many.
Another place we find ourselves becoming isolated is in your friendships. We become leery of the motives or reason of others. Who are our real friends and who are coming to us just because we've obtained a position of power?
This is something you've got to get out of your mind immediately. Sure, you'll come across people who want to be around you because you're in a position of authority and hang onto your coattails as they believe you can give them leverage and they'll try to abuse it. It's not fair but it's a price we must pay for being willing to lead others.
Instead of becoming isolated from those seeking relationships, we need to become aware of the fact we need these friendships. We become stronger when we're surrounded by others. They lift us up and encourage us to carry on. Ecclesiastes 4:12 puts this fact plainly.
This scripture states: "A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." If you're a believer, you can't ignore this verse. It's telling us we need to be standing together with other people. Guarding each other's backs. Being there for one another.
Close friendships help us stand tall and stand strong. When trouble comes, your friends and family are going to be the ones telling you you've got this and to keep going. And therein lies the major trap of isolation. It keeps us from relationships and moving forward.
We're easily defeated when we're by ourselves. However, having two or three people surrounding you will keep you strong. Decide today the two or three people you can join with to share the trials of leadership with.
Make a commitment to one another. Let each of you hold the others accountable. Be ready to lift up the friends you have made when they're down on their luck and questioning their value. Within this group of close friends, you'll also, hopefully, have the advice of wise counsel. This is another benefit of getting out of isolation. You'll discover you're able to consult with your wise friends and make better choices.
Proverbs 11:14 says “Where there is no counsel, the people fall: but in the multitude of “counselors”, there is safety.” What does this mean for you? It means you need to have people around you. Those 2-3 trusted or reliable people who are willing to give you counsel and encouragement. Don't neglect this vital facet of your leadership.
You'll need it more than you will ever realize and as it is mentioned, keep your circle of trust small enough to keep it from hurting you and keeping the level of communication effective and honest. Knowing you have others you can count on will strengthen the confidence you have in your own kind of leadership. You'll hear the honest feedback of those that love you. You'll feel the hands of those same friends lifting you up when you fall. You'll get the inspiration and encouragement you need when you feel you cannot continue leading anymore.
So, having the knowledge that you cannot stand alone- are you ready to stand with others who have your back? Make a choice and make those friendships!
Pitfall # 2 – Greed –
Remember it was mentioned that with the leadership role comes power and authority. These two things are strong temptations to do something that may easily trap you into a difficult situation. Let us examine how things change when you accept a role of leadership in a supervisory position.
Greed is the next trap we'll talk about. It's easy to fall into as excess is touted as the thing to have socially and sometimes economically. Peer pressure can change a lot of things in a very short period of time.
More cars, more money, more followers, more of everything. Have you found this to be true? Have you drifted from your list of needs versus the list of wants? Do you have traits of a glutton by wanting things you don’t really need?
This is more common than anyone really wants to admit to and you can bet it has happened to you or someone you know. We have heard stories of others who came into those feelings of envy and desire to have more in life. Most of the time, it is easy to fall into greed towards money or other materialistic things. You are only human. However, with greed comes temptations to do things you would normally not consider under any other circumstances. Look for ways to resist the allure of money and material possessions.
Reading the “material of minimalists” helps me to push this desire away. Look for “indicators” to help you identify these pitfalls and allow you to make changes to keep them from taking you down. This can be done as others have moved towards a simpler life and it's helped them combat the desire of monetary greed. It will also help you realize that you don't need it all either. Well, you may soon know it's not the only form of greed that will grasp you and try to kill off or diminish your ability to lead.
Where greed may get you is in trying to gain more money, influence or more materialistically things aka keeping up with the Joneses and in many ways, taking a bigger stake in life. This opens up an avenue to others taking advantage of you and bribing you into getting things done for them that you know are wrong but tempted to do because of its rewards and benefits. This is commonly called taking a “bribe” and it’s also unethical or illegal depending on the situation.
You may also have a desire to reach out to others and give them tools to lead better. You may want to share your knowledge with them but then, as it often happens, you get greedy and it shows its ugly, little head up and tells you that you need more followers. That you must be constantly expanding your sphere of influence.
You feel that you need to be noticed more. There's nothing wrong with this desire until it becomes all-encompassing and it rules over your life. It's something I have to fight off daily. To combat this, you need to set some reasonable boundaries. Maybe it's your need to only check your stats once a month or not at all. It is all based on the self-importance of this matter.
Whatever it is for you, discover it and fight against the greed. Greed also comes at us in relation to our time. Time is precious and it's something we can never get back once it's spent so we'll often try to hold onto it with all we've got. Don’t use any disparity in time. Be fair and spread it around.
We'll horde our time and try to give attention only to ourselves and those we love, care for or prefer as a personal choice. As a leader, we've got to realize we're called to give our time to others whom we don't even know.
Our employees and followers are looking for someone who's invested in them and not just themselves. They need someone who will lead and guide and give of their time. This is a very vital and critical part of leadership and if you fall in this area, your circle of trust will be broken and the number of followers will quickly dwindle to a just a few loyal friends.
We already know, you can't give all of your time to your followers. Nobody can no matter what kind of scenario you play, but you should be sure you can give more than you might think. Create a schedule of when you can be available to answer questions and personally mentor a select group of followers.
Offer your knowledge by writing or speaking or creating a product they can use to further their growth. You don't want to overwhelm yourself. That's for sure as that's as bad as being greedy with your time. So, as you can see, greed can come from the other side as well as others demand more time from you than ever before. Find out what works for you and implement a way to get rid of any greed or demands you have with your needs, tasks and time.
Pitfall # 3- Settling –
The next trap many leaders face is settling. Settling for poor performance from a team member. Settling for good enough. Settling for small goals. Settling is another easy trap to fall into. It rolls right off of our tongues. Think of all the times you've settled. This could be factored by several reasons including “I don't deserve to be leading so I'll step aside for now – We can't do better as a team – I'm used to these results. They're good enough for me”-
When is the last time you've heard yourself mutter one of these lines? Recently, I bet. If not, you've uttered some other line that says you're settling. Now you may be asking yourself: What's wrong with settling? There's a lot that is wrong with settling. It gives us underperforming team members. It may be sending them the wrong message and encourage others to settle causing your performance to fall to a dismal level that can get you in trouble. When you settle, others will too. It might be holding the team back. And you've kept them on because they're comfortable and you're comfortable. It gives us lackluster results. When we settle for sub-par results, we tend to get sub-par results. This brings down the quality of work we're doing and gives the organization a poor image. It may also result in loss or revenue, lost communications, loss of contracts and clients and reduce the number of employees due to neglectful work or job-related injuries. It gives us a lack of satisfaction. Giving in and settling causes us to care less about the assignments or projects we're working on. Knowing the results will be less than stunning, we stop caring. Less caring leads to a poor product. And creating a poor product leads to a lack of satisfaction. Again, you can see the domino effect when the leader settles, the team will roll with the same type of flow – slow and easy.
Can you see how settling can creep in and destroy leadership? It slowly breaks down the team, creates
poor products or results, and destroys our satisfaction in creating a product or result you can be proud of. We've got to move away from the trap of settling. To do this, you'll be required to shift your mindset into one that requires quality and sees results that meet the standards of your specific agency or organization.
Without this mindset change, you'll fall back into settling for poor results and performance. What can be done to help shift from a mindset of settling to a mindset of quality results? Glad you asked. It requires you to take swift action and a change of habits.
Are you ready to discover what needs to happen? Begin by seeing that settling is hurting your performance and your team members. Low standards and mediocrity will bring everyone down. They feel their work is unimportant and they can do a poor job. What's it matter anyway? Nothing great is expected from us. Let's do the least amount of work so we can relax and kick back. Keep in mind, these are all perceptions that fall back on you as a supervisor or team leader. So, take it personally because others will not hesitate to do so.
Call your team out on “accountability.” Lay out a template of what results will and will not be accepted. Setting standards is the fastest way to turn things around.
But to be successful, you must always follow up on these expectations. Discuss with the past issue of settling and where you're moving to. Let them know it's no fault of theirs but a fault you've discovered. Show them how settling has hurt the team and the great results you expect to see with this new move.
Now comes the hardest part – you must model the desired behavior. This may require you to step up your game and become a visible role model and show off you new desired conduct and performance expectations. Chances are, you may have been part of the problem. If you find yourself slacking off and not doing the best job possible, know that part of the problem was you. Decide today that you will change your attitude and behavior.
You will be responsible and you will make wise choices when it comes to doing great work. Apologize to your team for your lack of effort. Apply yourself towards achieving the results that you want to see from your team. Become the leader and do the work required.
Remember to follow up and track the progress made. There is really only one way to tell if you and the team are improving and that’s through tracking. The only way to tell if you're moving forward and not settling for poor results is to track the progress and results of the work being done. It's not fun and it gets messy when you have to call a team member or yourself out on the floor for poor performance. But if you're not tracking the progress of quality work you'll never know if you've improved what needed to be improved.
If you make the shift in these four areas, you'll begin to see a shift towards accountability and creating quality products or results. Keep it up and your organization will gain the recognition it deserves. We need to see settling hurts the whole team as well as the supervisor or team leader.
Ownership is important as well as commitment. We need to see our teams need to be called into accountability. We need to model the behavior we desire. And we need to track our progress. This is where the results will come from. One note on settling.
Don't mistake settling for being an empathic leader. There will be times when a team member needs extra time or training. It's not from a lack of desire to do quality work. It may come from a struggle at home or a need for more training. Assess the situation. If training or a little time off appears to be the solution, be willing to work with the team member to resolve the issue. Help them succeed so they can help the company excel. Not only will you have helped a team member improve, you will have made a team member who sees their value. This can be more valuable than actually getting quality results from him. It creates a team member who is committed and dedicated to the team. Isn't this what you really want? Someone who buys into the vision?
Pitfall # 4 – Avoidance –
The last pitfall we'll discuss is avoidance. Now, what do we mean by avoidance? It's “shirking” the responsibility of leaders to confront the issues and problems that are occurring in your organization. You may avoid confronting poor performance: confronting negative attitudes within the workplace; avoid employees or customers who you find annoying and a myriad of other situations.
When we begin avoiding people and situations that make us uncomfortable, we give up a major factor and portion of our leadership. We're saying "I'm unwilling to step up and take responsibility for this situation. Instead, I'll leave the bad situation the way it is." Avoidance is also known as a cop-out. A failure to act when there is a strong need to do something and change things.
Putting this into words makes it sound bad, doesn't it? Just from experience, we know there have been people and situations we have all avoided. There were, of course, justifications in your mind on why you chose to avoid rather than confronting. This is a delicate balance in supervisory roles and leadership.
A lot of it has to do with the fact I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. For most, it was the greater good and having peace that "encouraged" this act of avoidance. It was thought of doing something good when in fact, it might actually do more harm. Your avoidance issues probably give you the same feelings. You're keeping the peace. You don't want to rock the boat. You want smooth sailing. The cold, hard truth is avoidance only leads to those desired outcomes for so long.
Avoidance is a temporary solution if that’s what you want to call it. Sure, for a while, you'll see peace and harmony until time catches up with you and a tipping point is reached and confrontation is inevitable and sudden. Reaching this point, you begin to spew all of the problems at once. And the team member didn't even know there was a problem. They're caught off-guard and respond in kind. Instead of reaching the boiling point, you could have confronted the issue when you first noticed the problem arising.
What could have been done instead? Take the slow road. Approach those involved in the situation and let them know things aren't right and you're there to help fix the issue. Inform them you want to keep them around as they're great workers
but the actions they're taking are producing a hostile work environment.
Let's break down the process to kill avoidance. You'll be better off for it.
Begin by examining situations as they come at you. What's your reaction to them? Do you want to bury the issue or confront it? If it's the latter, confront it and deal with it. If it's prior, look at the issue and examine why you want to bury it. Is it because it's really not important or is it because the situation makes you uncomfortable? Disclose the real motive and don’t deny the fact that a problem exists.
Discovering this motivation will help you move forward and resolve the issue rather than bury it. Next, take the time to work through the issue. Break it down into simple steps that you can take to approach the issue.
Sometimes, when you have to deal with awkward situations you can find different ways to discuss the issue. Using your strong points of leadership, communication, and fairness, you could always ask for a lunch meeting to discuss the issue. Eating tends to put people at ease and creates an atmosphere to talk. Don't barge in with an assault on the person. Instead, ask questions that can breach the issue and reach an amicable resolution. Be empathetic and share your story to let them know you can understand their situation in some way. Take time to describe a time you've made a mistake and the reasons another leader avoided confronting you about the problem.
Describe how it made you feel when you finally realized what happened and the avoidance that occurred. Assure the person you're not angry but rather need to clear the air and get things rolling in the right direction.
Most important, offer solutions and don’t make excuses. offer solutions to the problems that you wanted to avoid. Show the team member you're wanting to work through the issues and make things right. When you show an openness to solutions rather than condemnation, people are more open to the correction.
Once you have confronted the problem whether it was behavior or performance – let it go. Move on and don’t look back. Now it's time to move forward. Once you've defeated the avoidance, you've got to move forward in the relationship. Don't let the mistakes of the past hold you back. Applaud the employee and welcome them back into the fold.
Avoidance often appears as the savior of a team. You think it will keep the peace. Instead, it kills it. Take the steps listed to overcome the avoidance and build a better team. Take the time to examine why you're avoiding the issue. Decide on why and determine a resolution.
Move forward with the resolution. Whether it's taking the team member to lunch to discuss the issue openly or it's confronting the issue head on. Take the action needed to resolve it. Be willing to share the stories you have of past avoidance and how it's negatively affected the team. Let them know it's not what you want for them.
And be willing to offer solutions. Show them you want to work together to get things done. When you do, you'll finally have overcome avoidance and discover the keys to living free from it.