Through the years, I've seen many new (and experienced) leaders consistently get tripped up by wrong mindsets in 3 areas: respect, power & knowledge. The sooner leaders adapt their mindsets in these 3 areas, the sooner they and their teams will be on the path to delivering outstanding results to their organization!
The proper mindset for Respect: "Leaders earn it; followers get it"
As a new leader, you step into your position with a clean slate and "an empty bucket". The empty bucket I refer to represents respect: the respect you've earned and accrued as the leader of your new work group. It is very important for new leaders to adopt the mindset that they are "owed nothing" and have to "earn everything", especially when it comes to respect. Other than the small amount that comes with your new title, your task is to earn the rest. With each step you take, each interaction you engage in and each decision you make, you have an opportunity to fill your bucket of respect.
Here's the catch . . . when it comes to your employees, you give respect to them immediately and unconditionally. And when they trip up, reflect on what YOU, as their leader, can do differently next time to help them avoid a similar stumble, discuss the situation with them, as appropriate, and refill their bucket of respect back up to the top. As a leader, it's your job to earn respect and your job to give respect, not the other way around.
The proper mindset for Power: "It's yours to share, not hoard"
Power is the capacity to exercise control. As a leader, it's important to share power with your work group. Not only does it send a strong supporting message, but it also strengthens the group's overall ability to perform. For leaders, power is primarily derived from 3 sources:
- One's Position (hierarchical power)
- One's Knowledge (expertise power)
- One's Access to Information (informational power)
Of the 3 power sources, hierarchal power is the only one that cannot be shared, as it is tied to the leader's job and necessary to uphold the responsibilities of the position. Both expertise and informational power can be shared. While not all new leaders possess expertise power, all possess informational power. Some leaders get tripped up by mistakenly believing their unique access to information or possession of expertise increases their power status. In reality, information access and expertise only become power increasers when they are shared with others.
The more your team knows, the better able they will be to individually and collectively unleash their capabilities to help the business. With expertise and informational power, the more you share, the more you will receive, both in terms of power and overall work group performance.
The proper mindset for Knowledge: "You don't know it all, so don't pretend"
None of us truly know everything, not even in the area of our specialty. So why then does it seem so hard for some, especially once they've moved into leadership, to admit they don't know everything? Ego I guess. I have found this to be one of the single biggest challenges facing young leaders. Through the years on numerous occasions, I learned of instances where a seasoned subordinate seemingly sat by while their new supervisor did something the subordinate knew was incorrect. In every case, the explanation was either the supervisor had not asked the subordinate for input, or the subordinate had spoken up but the supervisor had not listened.
The lesson, for all leaders, is to engage your people for input when dealing with their jobs. Give your people the benefit of the doubt regarding knowledge, whether they have earned it or not (see #1 above - you earn it, they get it). Nobody expects you to have all of the answers, so don't pretend to. In general, be humble. It is more important to find out what your employees know. More often than not task owners know more about their jobs than others realize.
If you are a leader that already understands the above mindsets, congratulations, as you are off and running on the right foot! If you found the above to be new and insightful, worry not. The simple fact that you're reading articles, seeking knowledge and considering differing perspectives reflects a learner's spirit. Keep learning, keep growing and keep tapping into the knowledge around you (see #3 above), as that's a formula used by successful leaders everywhere! Lead on!