In the last two parts of this series on authority and leadership, I mentioned several tips you can start using today to create an aura of someone others need to follow, even if you have never led or are just beginning in your field.
In this post, I will detail several things you must NEVER do if you wish to show authority and lead. If you indulge in these, you put your leadership in jeopardy.
1) Avoid criticising, dispariaging, insulting, or belittling others. The internet is full of colorful characters. Some of these people demonstrate some very odd, uninformed, and just plain ignorant behavior. You may have been a target of their ignorance or verbal attacks. Maybe you even indulged in some “forum infighting”.
As tempting as it may be to “show someone who’s boss” who has attacked you, show yourself – and them – the higher road by empowering them. If this proves too hard to do, then simply refuse to be pulled down into their level. Don’t be cocky and say this is what you are doing; that will just get them more fired up at you. Demonstrate diplomacy, respect and patience. This can take some fortitude as some folks out there can be quite difficult.
But if you persist and take the better road, they will either stop attacking, disappear, or even come to your side. Abraham Lincon said “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?”
If all else fails, you can simply ignore this person. In any case, don’t let them get the better of you. Lead.
2) Eliminate verbal stutters. “Uh”, “ahm”, and “you know”. These are verbal “ticks”. Too many of these cause you to seem unpolished. Truly persuasive leaders have disciplined themselves out of making these utterances. Think Toastmasters. Plus, it’s quite hypnotic for you to speak this way, as hardly anyone speaks without them. This subtle difference makes people listen.
3) If you aren’t sure about the answer to something, admit it. But you can admit it in a way that makes you seem like an expert. If someone asks something of you and you don’t know the answer, tell them “That’s a great question and I had been wondering that myself. How about we find out?”
This is much better than “I don’t know”, pretending to know the answer when you don’t, or embarassing silence.
4) Realize that force doesn’t work. Forcing people into something they resist or would respond to with a gentle nudge is the Achilles heel to stellar leadership. It is a medieval, totally crude and outdated method of achieving results.
Forceful behavior comes in the form of threats, yelling, demanding and insulting. Reference #1 above.
Likewise, do not demand. Instead, suggest. Diplomacy and fairness are the stewards of truly effective leaders. Leave barking orders and bossing people around to the Lieutenant Commanders or local managers. If you really want to lead people, suggest they do things instead of telling them to do it. Because you have demonstrated more tact and less force, leader, they will be more prone to listen to you if they feel your request has some “openness” to it.
Note that you can make a request with authority and diplomacy. Think of the principal in your high school when they talked with you, or perhaps a yoga or martial arts instructor. They are adepts at making requests. Of course, these people have a natural authority within their contexts.
Setting up contexts for leadership is an advanced method for another article.
4) Realize that people aren’t robots and that mistakes are bound to happen. This will enable you to develop patience, reserve and avoid “drill sergeant-itis”, the behavior that comes from being overly aggressive with people when a gentler approach would have accomplished the same thing or better.
People are quirky, emotional, illogical at times. We all make mistakes. The leader realizes this, and while he or she does lead and make suggestions as illustrated in #4 above, she won’t berate or become to aggressive as a modus operandi.
A perfect example of this is illustrated in the case of Olga and Frank. Olga and Frank were business partners at one time. The business went sour and Frank ended up owing Olga $300.00. Several years went by and Frank had all but forgotten about the debt. He got a chat invitation from Olga online. Thinking she was popping in to say hello, Frank was delighted to hear from Olga.
The pleasantries came to a swift end. Olga launched into an aggressive attack on Frank, demanding that he pay her right away or that he would be facing a lawyer, judge and jury for the amount he owed. Nevermind that years had passed and Frank had forgotten about the amount he owed, or that they were on amicable terms when the business was dissolved. Olga jumped into a highly aggressive lawsuit-threatening attack.
Frank naturally became upset and blasted Olga for being so tactless and rude. A fight ensued. Frank did end up paying Olga the $300.00, but the emotional damage had been done.
Could this situation have been resolved differently? Yes of course, yet many people choose force over reason, diplomacy and tact.
You can see from this example what a leadership blunder Olga had made. Her forceful attitude was akin to swatting a mosquito with a bazooka missile. If you must use force, use it in self-defense only. Imposing it on others is a huge persuasion and leadership blunder.
The best way to persuade someone to do what you want is to gently guide them to their own realization. Guiding will be covered in future articles as well. Don’t make Olga’s mistake and engage in emotional nuclear war.
Note: At times, some people need an aggressive response. This is usually to wake them up out of apathy or a behavioral pattern that isn’t helping them. Think a basketball coach for the NBA. But by and large, a more “managed” approach will suffice.
There is much more to leadership blunders than is listed here. The best way to learn is to watch leaders as they lead. If you work in an office, ask your president or CEO what it takes to lead. Find someone who inspires you and listen to what they say and how they say it.
Be sure to read books and take courses on leadership to develop yourself into the natural leader you were meant to be.
Wolf Benedict is a successful and established internet marketing expert who resides in Boston’s North End. He teaches people how to successfully cultivate leadership and marketing skills.