Great companies have a common characteristic. They have strong leaders. But what is strong leadership? I think if you ask ten different persons you will get ten different answers! I think an obvious sign of a strong leader is they generally have a group of very dedicated followers who understand their role in the overall vision for the company. I don’t believe that strong leadership is characterized by the volume of their bark or purely the degree at which they drive their team forward. Being strong doesn’t mean being feared or intimidating.
But what happens when you have a weak leader? A leader that struggles at making decisions or providing vision or hitting deadlines? Is this a sign that they don’t have the tools to lead? Although these and other signs may be a function of overall weakness, it may not be their fault. You may be the problem. You may be the barrier to their leadership strength. Here are a few ways you may be weakening the leaders below you.
Changing Work Priorities
You have placed this person in a leadership role in order to use their judgement on managing the staff and prioritizing assignments. If you are directing their staff to complete items that you think have a higher priority without consulting them first you are undermining their authority. This is sending a message to the team that your leader is not capable of prioritizing correctly and that they are incapable and you need to get involved. The real reason may be that you have a control problem. If you must change priorities for the team, follow the organizational chart and stay in the chain of command. Don’t manage folks just because you can.
If you are having issues with a report and you are running your mouth to other folks in the organization, the gossip will obviously be damaging to that person’s credibility. And you may be just plain wrong. Don’t assume you have it all figured out. Keep your mouth shut and go to the person and discuss your issues. Give them an opportunity to explain and rebut your assumptions. Gossip is never the answer.
Different Management Styles
Don’t assume that another person‘s management style is weak just because it’s not the same as the way you manage or lead. The measurement is the results. Is this person doing their job as a leader? Are the folks that they are leading engaged and performing properly?
Fuzzy Or Changing Goals
Have you been completely clear about what the goals are and what items are most important? Do you change the priorities often? If the person is unsure or in a constant state of flux, how can you hold them responsible for anything? Provide clear objectives and be consistent.
Do you feel that this person is a threat to you? This may sound strange since they are actually below you in the organizational chart. Does this person intimidate you? Are they sometimes more knowledgeable in some areas. Do they just grind you? Do they have a great following in the workplace? This should be all positive, however some folks can be very insecure, have big egos or are narcissistic and will fight you or anyone else to “win”. Just remember that you are both on the same team! Showcase your talent and let your people grow in influence. Don’t hold them down. When they grow and prosper, you grow and prosper too!
Do you allow folks to come directly to you instead of their direct report? This can be a situation where “If dad says no, go ask mom!” Don’t provide direction or approve a decisions downstream. Always push them back into the chain of command. By directly managing people downstream you are undermining their authority. You are directly weakening their leadership.
I am sure there are more examples of this kind of behavior that destroys the strength of their leadership. If you want strong leaders, it is up to you to empower them! Support them by respecting the chain of command and the organizational chart. Give them all the tools they need to be successful. Do not direct their people even if you are the owner of the company. Support them in front of the rest of the company. If you have issues with them, discuss the issues privately. Respect them and their work and they will grow in strength and effectiveness. Quite often the true “weak leader” is the person you see in the mirror!