5 Reasons Why When You Lead, No One Follows

You’ve finally done it.  After years spent working long hours, perfecting your craft, and proving your worth on big projects, you’ve earned the title of your dreams.  You are now officially Mr. or Ms. Bigwig.  You bask in the glow of your momentous achievement, thinking of all the wonderful things you are going to accomplish, now that you are responsible for a team of people who will help you to shake things up for the company and bring acclaim to your area.  You sit in your new office, feet on the desk, fantasizing about the ways that you will impact corporate America.

A few months pass.  The brass nameplate you purchased for your desk is losing a bit of its luster.  You reflect on how leading people isn’t quite all that it seemed cracked up to be.  You have found that they require more hand-holding than you would have anticipated.  And, then there is the issue of getting them excited about things.  For example, your last meeting that you were convinced would rally the troops and inspire them to soar to new heights was met with a lukewarm response.  “What is wrong with these people?” you wonder, lamenting about how you inherited a team of unmotivated and ungrateful sloths.  So, you pore over books of management techniques and consider how to artfully craft your next message in a way that will finally get them to listen to you so you can accomplish the aggressive goals set by your boss.  All the while, you overlook the sad truth that I’m about to discreetly reveal to you…

“It’s not them…it’s you.”


Yes, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but your leadership style is playing a key role in the results you’re getting (or not getting).  But I’m here to help.  Read on for five of the potential reasons for your unenviable predicament.

1.  You have a blind spot the size of a trucker

You know that annoying quality your significant other and friends keep telling you about that you keep dismissing?  It’s actually true.  And, it doesn’t just affect you at home, it also rears its ugly head in the workplace.  I hate to break it to you, but it comes up even more frequently now that you are constantly under all the stress associated with your new highfaluting job.  Your strategy of thinking that if you just ignore it, it will go away, simply isn’t working.  

Takeaway: It’s time to get serious about understanding yourself – your strengths, your weaknesses, and everything in-between, and doing something about it.  If you don’t, it could derail you.  Seriously.


2.  You want to look like you know everything

Now that you are a leader, you think you are expected to have all the answers.  So, instead of putting yourself in situations in which you can continue to stretch yourself and learn, you are concerned with looking good.  You try to avoid being vulnerable by avoiding experiences that could make you look less than fully competent, and you might even stretch the truth a little to make yourself look better.  However, you are shooting yourself in the foot.  Instead of truly becoming a knowledgeable and high-powered leader, you to stay stagnant and underachieve relative to your potential, because you aren’t getting the valuable opportunities that will help you to develop.  Plus, the people who report to you have learned that taking risks isn’t valued, and so they shy away from innovation or sharing unique ideas.  

Takeaway: Want opportunities to learn and grow? Humility and a willingness to be vulnerable go a long way!


3.   You are about as authentic as a designer knock-off

You have a sense of what leaders are “supposed” to be like, and so that is the person you aim to be.  That engaging sense of humor you possess?  You squelch it so you can appear more “presidential.”  Your opinion about how the newest company initiative is likely going to go over like a lead balloon amongst people of your demographic?  You keep it to yourself, for fear that others might not like what you have to say.  Your people see that you aren’t advocating for them, and so, they don’t feel a need to go out on a limb for you.  Instead of earning your seat at the table, you have become an empty suit taking up space, nodding your head as the “Yes-man” you think you should be.  This causes others to see you as agreeable, perhaps, but definitely not as someone who adds value.

Takeaway: If you truly want to be a leader, you must embrace your authenticity. Authentic leaders set the tone for their people to bring their unique perspectives to the table and increase their odds of being valued for their own contributions.


4.   You’re an island

“Work is work,” you say to yourself, “I’m not here to make friends.”  You view relationship-building as schmoozing, and pride yourself on never sinking to such superficial lows.  Because you think your competence should speak for itself, you focus intensely on charging through your to-do list, without placing any attention on the interpersonal side of things.  You have overlooked the fact that people are more prone to be influenced by people they actually like.  And, since you haven’t made personal connections, you find you’re having a hard time getting people to consider your perspectives.   You lead your people the same way – you don’t have time to waste on “touchy-feely” crap when you are all paid to drive the business forward.  Your people hate the culture you have set, because instead of feeling like well-rounded people with hopes, dreams, emotions, and needs for personal connection, they feel more like factory workers pressured to increase the rate at which they are manufacturing widgets.

Takeaway: Work gets done through people.  Building relationships will build a sense of camaraderie and teamwork that complements getting tasks done.

5.  You’re a miserable person

The initial surge of joy you experienced over your promotion has reverted back to your more typical neutral to crabby response.  You have devoted so much time to your work that you are neglecting your hobbies and interests that bring you happiness.  You overlook the fact that people tend to produce better results when they are experiencing positive emotions.  And, because you don’t realize that leaders’ moods are particularly contagious, you are unaware that your attitude is frequently the source of the sourpuss faces with which you are often greeted in the office, and the associated suboptimal performance.

Takeaway: Research shows that positive emotions are conducive to more effectiveness in work in a variety of areas.  Taking the time to foster positivity in the workplace will make your area more successful.

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