In the recent economic collapse we’ve had the misfortune to witness leader after leader fall from grace. It’s easy to watch this and assume it can never happen to us, but of course it can. Being a leader means a sustained commitment to leadership, and it’s easy to miss the warning signs when we’re too focused on the details. We’ve put together a brief list of those signs, so you can take action now if your attention is slipping.
Forgetting What’s Important
Can you sum up what your single most important focus is, right now, in a line or two? If not there’s a chance you’ve started to forget what’s important and started to concentrate on what’s not.
If you’ve started to become all about the “doing” and less about “the journey”, or you find yourself micro-managing and obsessed with tiny details – then you’re not leading effectively any more.
When this happens you need to take some time out to reassess your priorities and then effectively engage with them again.
Failure to Communicate
If you have forgotten what’s important it’s highly likely that you aren’t communicating effectively with your team. You have to know what you mean before you can “say what you mean, and mean what you say”.
Leaders can find themselves becoming overly ambiguous in their messages when they lack clarity themselves. Worse, they can start to believe that their teams possess special psychic powers to “know what they mean” for them.
Avoiding or Postponing Risk
If you’ve been a successful leader for a period of time, it’s quite natural that you’ll want to protect that image. Sadly, that is often expressed as an unwillingness to deviate from tried and tested methods and a refusal to to innovate. That’s because these are perceived as “safe strategies”.
You might want to think back and remember that one of the reasons you were able to assume a leadership position in the first place was your willingness to accept risk and profit from it. That doesn’t mean starting to take crazy gambles, it does mean reviewing your patterns of success and thinking outside of the box again.
Failing to Respect Yourself
Leadership can be a wonderful exciting journey, but like all journeys it can also become fatiguing. You have to keep a close eye on your health (physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically) because those around you (unless you are extremely fortunate) won’t notice when you’re flagging.
You may need to take some time out to re-energize yourself and find enthusiasm for the task of leadership again. If you don’t respect your own needs, it’s likely that over time you’ll start losing respect for the needs of others too.
Sometimes we lose our motivation along the way. We start leading because we love leading. We’re passionate about people and our projects. Then something causes us to lose sight of this and we begin to drift rudderless for a while. If you feel you’ve lost your motivation, it’s time to go back to basics and either reconnect with that passion you felt in the first place or perhaps take a break from leading for a while if you can’t.
Working with a leadership coach can help you identify these warning signs and take action early. Being a great leader is always hard work, but it’s really rewarding when you’re getting it right too.