Leadership Mistakes

How to Lead not Push: Being a True Leader

Mark Shead asked:

A common mistake inexperience leaders make is using authority when it is not needed. If you are the boss people have to do what you say right? So the easy way to get people to do what you want is to just use your authority muscle and show they that you are the boss. Right? Actually that is probably the easiest way because it doesn’t rely on any true leadership skill. You are basically pushing your way toward what you want instead of leading the way.

A good leader knows how to actually lead people instead of pushing them. That means coming up with clever and sometimes subtle ways to get things done without beating people over the head with your authority. This doesn’t mean that using authority is never called for, but a good leader will be able to operate 90% of the time without resorting to the “I am the boss” trump card.

A good leader will be able to create an environment where it is easy for people to head in the proper direction because it seems natural-not because they have to. They can do this because they understand the motivation and personalities of the people they lead. This isn’t something that happens easily and most inexperienced leaders lack the skill and won’t take the time to really understand their subordinates on that deep of a level.

When people are following your lead, they will work hard and achieve more than they ever thought possible. When you are pushing them, they will resist you. It might not be overt, but they definitely will not put the same passion into their work as they will when they are excited about where they are going and where you are taking them.

Leadership is not about having authority. Authority can be important, but leadership is really about leading. If leadership was about authority it would be called “driving” or “corralling” or “forcing your will”, but it isn’t. Leadership is about leading people-taking them places because they want to follow not because you are forcing them.

When a leader recognizes the difference between leading and pushing and chooses to to be a true leader, they are headed down the path toward greatness. Unfortunately most people in leadership positions are more worried about having authority than actually leading. They work hard to push people, but never really put any effort into really learning how to be a leader that people will want to follow.

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