Unlocking your leadership potential means that you have potential but there is something blocking you from fully expressing it. In this short article, we’ll take a look at some factors that may be preventing you from realizing your leadership potential and how you can overcome these obstacles to be an effective leader. What is keeping you from realizing your leadership potential? The chances are that it is one of (or a combination of) the following factors.
You have shortcomings (we all do). But you are unwilling to acknowledge them? One of the most common mistakes leaders make is to assume that admitting to a weakness will lead to a lack of confidence from others. This is unlikely. In fact, admitting to a weakness and taking steps to address them is more often than not an excellent way to earn the trust and confidence of others. Pride, or an unwillingness to acknowledge one’s shortcomings, is perhaps the most common reason for untapped potential.
Are you willing to learn?
There is an old adage that says “knowing is half the battle.” The adage holds true when it comes to unlocking your leadership potential. Leadership skills (like most skills) can be learned. But you have to be willing to acknowledge your weaknesses and then take steps to address them.
There are a number of online courses and training modules you can take that can help you define your areas of weakness and overcome them. Here is an article on the 10 best online leadership and management courses of 2023. And if you lack experience and would prefer to learn on the job, here is an article about how you can explain in a cover letter that you have no experience but are willing to learn.
Effective leadership is synonymous with effective communication. Effective communication is only possible in an environment of mutual respect. All parties need to feel their voice is respected and that what they have to say will be given due consideration.
Are you communicating effectively?
As the leader, you are largely responsible for creating and maintaining this healthy environment. Additionally, you are responsible for communicating certain ideas to the team. These ideas can be broken down into three categories.
- Expectations – Each member of the team needs to have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. To avoid misunderstandings and eliminate potential excuses of “You never told me” or “You told me something different,” get in the habit of putting down the expectations in writing. Draft the list of expectations together with the team members and have them sign it.
- Vision – This is very similar to expectations though it relates to the team or company as a whole, whereas expectations are treated on an individual basis. In order for the whole team to be on the same page as it pertains to vision, it is important that the whole team contributes to defining the vision for the team or company.
The company’s vision, to a certain extent, should be addressed in the hiring process. So, if recruitment was done right, a large part of communicating vision should already be accomplished. Nevertheless, it is important to get it down in writing and have the whole team sign off on it (literally and figuratively).
- Feedback – Each member of the team needs to have a clear understanding of how well they have performed. For this to be possible, it is important to keep the lines of communication open, and the team members need to be receptive to feedback. It is not always easy to receive feedback on one’s performance. This is where you, as the leader, need to lead by example. Give your team members the opportunity to give you feedback on your performance before you give them feedback on theirs.
An effective leader empowers others to achieve greatness. He or she does not try to do everything themselves. Self-reliance, or not relying on others, leads inevitably to isolation. It is the antithesis of leadership.
Are you empowering others?
Empowering others starts with trust. You have to trust your team members to meet the expectations they have signed up for (literally and figuratively). Identify the strengths of the individual members of your team, and give them opportunities to express their strengths.
Micromanaging is the antithesis of empowerment. When you micromanage, you are effectively telling your team members that you don’t trust them. And you are preventing them from expressing their strengths and you are impeding their professional growth.
The best way you can express the trust you have in your team members is by delegating tasks. In order to delegate effectively, you need to understand how much you can delegate and to whom. This is only possible when an environment of clear and open communication has been established. This requires a certain level of emotional intelligence, hence why effective leadership and emotional intelligence go hand in hand
Are you taking an interest in the long-term professional development of your team members?
Take the time to get to know your team members. What are their professional goals? What steps are they taking to reach those goals?
An effective leader has a clear understanding of his or her team members’ short and long-term professional goals. And the effective leader takes steps to facilitate his or her team members’ professional growth. When you make an effort to help your team members’ achieve their professional goals, you can be sure that you will see an increase in the effort they make to completing the tasks you have empowered them to undertake.
Unlock your leadership potential by reducing or eliminating the factors that are blocking you: pride, ambiguity, and self-reliance. You can be an effective leader, but don’t expect it to happen overnight. Surround yourself with good people. Trust them. Empower them. And with each small success, your leadership skills will come more and more into the forefront.