There are tons of self-help books and articles out there claiming everyone can easily become a leader. Sure, it’s true that most people can learn the basic fundamentals of leadership. However, not everyone can be thrown into a leadership role and succeed based solely on previous industry experience.

If you’ve been a manager or ever had a boss, then you know that not all leaders display leadership qualities. It can be one of the most frustrating things to encounter in the business world. Therefore, I thought it was essential for everyone’s sanity to point out a few common mistakes people make when placed into a leadership role and how to solve them.

1. Success in the field does not translate to being a manager.

Effectiveness and management require two different skills. For example, just because an employee has the best sales record, that doesn’t mean he or she knows how to run strategy meetings. I would call this job placement a mistake by the person who promoted the employee. Unless there is a clear and undeniable reason to move a person from the field into a management position, it could be best to hire someone displaying superior, management-specific skills.

2. Don’t try to have all the answers.

Recognize when an area is new for you and don’t try to know everything at once. Leadership roles come with new responsibilities and unfamiliar tasks, and there is a learning curve. Instead of pretending to know everything, try to educate yourself as much as possible. Read articles and attend workshops on how to master the new role. Meanwhile, it’s okay to admit to the group that you don’t have all the answers.

3. Don’t try to maintain friendships with a group that is no longer a true peer group.

I’m not saying that you can’t still be friends with the people who now work underneath you. But there are some new rules to consider. For example, make sure that you are asking for honest feedback. A friend might give praise where it isn’t due, just to be supportive and nice. Be sure to make it clear that you are looking for feedback on how you are doing as a manager, not as a buddy.

The same applies for you when giving feedback. It is important to be honest about the work quality of your employees, regardless of personal relationships. However, it is important to remember to give praise in public and criticize in private.

4. Avoid screaming, bullying, and demeaning employees.

This is an obvious, but critical, rule for successful leaders. Be honest and authoritative with employees, but remember there is a fine line between that and being a bully.

Here are some tips to help ensure fair communication with your employees:

  • Find a vehicle by which you can get to know your employees. Be sure to understand the triggers in their lives, and their fears. These can be useful tools for communication.
  • If you struggle, it may become necessary to bring in a coach with an objective viewpoint. They can share stories of behavior in other companies and tell you what works best.
  • Conduct a personality profile, and review and discuss it with employees one-on-one. This tactic can make it easy to relate to your employee, as well as to help with his performance.
  • Provide a safe environment with ongoing coaching and training. This will allow employees to express concerns about their lives, health, and job performance.

Most importantly, remember that no leader is perfect. You will make mistakes along the way, but don’t be afraid to admit when this happens. Establish an environment of trust with your employees and make sure that you give people realistic expectations. Always try to do what you have promised, and admit when you fall short.

James McPartland is the Principal and Chief Inspiration Officer of the JMacPerformanceGroup, a specialized management consulting firm focused on realizing the importance of the human potential in business. He is an entrepreneur, author, international speaker, and TV/Radio Host with an upcoming novel, Unopened Gifts: One Man’s Journey to Gratitude. For more information, contact James here.


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