Becoming a Better Leader by Overcoming Bad Habits
This post was first aired in March 2011. I find it to be compelling enough to share again.
Change involves doing something differently than what you have done in the past. Everyone knows this. The problem with change is that you have to have the persistence, perseverance and stamina to not only implement the change, but also to sustain the change. While this all sounds like old hat, sometimes the real struggle is overcoming ingrained habits that get in the way of making the change permanent.
Becoming a better leader involves change. It may be in how you communicate with others, the ways that you delegate or don’t delegate or it could even be in how you deal with conflict. The possibilities are almost endless. As David Maister points out in his book “Strategy and the Fat Smoker”, the problem with most strategy is not the direction, but in the implementation. The same holds true when you consider how you will become a better leader.
I will take a few moments in this post to talk about ways to keep change in place. The kinds of change you will make as a leader will usually not be easy; in fact they may be some of the most difficult things you will ever do. But change is essential and change is integral in becoming a better leader. Let me offer an analogy that many of you will identify with. Becoming a healthier person involves exercise, eating the correct foods in the right portions, minimizing or mitigating stress, getting enough rest and avoiding habits such as smoking. We will look at this as a comparison to leadership changes.
Being healthy is not easy, especially if you are accustomed to doing whatever you want. Our country has a major issue with obesity and the core problems that are leading to this obesity epidemic are many of the health issues I just described. Americans don’t get enough exercise, they eat the wrong foods and they eat too much food. Why is this? I say the main reason is that we have done it for a long time and we have been conditioned to believe that these habits are OK. Fast food is easily obtained and most food you find at restaurants is totally in conflict with a healthy lifestyle. We are always in a hurry so we get something that is quickly prepared and this is usually something that is fried. Fried food is deadly-no two ways about it. We also eat too many carbohydrates (especially simple carbs) such as fries and candy, both simple carbs (they are easily converted into sugar). In order to make the changes needed to eat more healthy foods it involves not only knowing what to eat, but it also involves changing the patterns of our life. We might need to prepare our own lunch versus going out to lunch. we also might consider going to different restaurants that prepare healthy foods. I could go on an on, but the real challenge is breaking the cycle of habit that drives our poor choices.
Becoming a better leader is very similar. A better leader understands his or her preference when it comes to leading others, but a better leader knows that you cannot manage everyone the same way. The better leader understands those he or she will be dealing with and modifies the way that he or she works with each person they manage. This will involve conscious thought on the part of the leader and it will also involve spending time with and getting to know each person they manage. This takes time, but it pays off.
Another way to be a better leader is to understand your conflict preference. Many leaders know their conflict preference through using the TKI (Thomas-Kilmann conflict mode instrument) and they learn that they cannot always divert to their preferred mode. The TKI measures five modes of dealing with conflict; Competing, Collaborating, Compromising, Avoiding and Accommodating. Not every situation is tailor made for each preference. The better leader understands the situation and also understands which of the five modes best suits the situation.
Another way to become a Better Leader is through feedback from others. Going it alone as a leader can be fun, but you need feedback and support from others in order to understand how you are perceived by others and if the intent of your actions is perceived as you believe. Many of us have huge blind spots when it comes to how others perceive us an our actions. Better Leaders take the time to gain feedback from others in order to gain the support needed to implement the personal changes they will need.
We all need to make changes. Better leaders are always looking for ways to make changes that will make them more effective. change requires support and better leaders provide support to others while looking for their own support to keep their changes in place.
Are you striving to become a better leader? If so, where do you gain your support?