People See You As A Leader, But In Reality, You Aren’t And Far From It

ByAzleen Abdul Rahim

Almost everybody wants to be a leader. Yes, you are included. To many people out there, including your LinkedIn followers, you seemed to be a great leader. Every single day, your posting—quote of the day will be liked, positively commented and even shared by a number of people. And your alternate-day images and videos of you talking on stage or leading the pack of colleagues in events and gatherings are attracting cool engagements too. It means one thing.

You are a great leader

But it’s a completely different thing from your subordinates’ and colleagues’ point of view. To them, the earlier perception is not true at all. Not even close. 

No, you are not a leader and here’s why

According to them, you are not really a leader because you do not have the inability to truly listen to others. Hearing is totally a different thing, but listening is another. You may appear to engage in discussions, nodding thoughtfully as your team members present their ideas, but in truth, your mind is already made up. It is either you do not know how to listen, or you just do not want to do it.

The rest is just merely lip service. There’s no intention whatsoever to understand some of the great ideas being put forward for you to consider. Those are irrelevant to your eyes. Each time your team brainstormed some cool ideas to make the plan happens, you consistently dismissed their ideas in favour of your own. Your illusion of leadership had created an environment where creativity and growth were stifled. This is a red flag number one.

Now comes the second red flag. You refuse to acknowledge mistakes. Instead, you resort to finger-pointing undermining trust and creating a toxic work culture. I’m sure other people will agree with me by saying that this type of leader who deflects responsibility, never accepting their own faults and shortcomings is not a leader at all. There is no right word for this actually. I once worked together with a team of brilliant people at this social media agency to deliver a project. Being a strategist, I need to work closely with the leader of the team. At that time, one of the social media campaigns failed to deliver the results required. This team leader, without any guilt to share the blame, immediately blamed all his people for not executing it well enough. All six of his team members were yelled and blamed at big time that day. The fact that he refused to consider any personal fault in the decision-making process or his lack of support for his team totally amazed me till today. That week, his team felt completely demoralised, and I had to take action to turn things around as I can’t afford to have downtime all around since the project has a tight deadline to fulfil. 

Micro-managing is another thing I see as a red flag which you keep on doing to your people and this is crazy. 

Although you may not see it as micro-manage, your people do. Did you know that micro-managing actually stifles creativity and innovation within your people? You wish to insert yourself into every minor decision at the working level, requiring your approval even for mundane tasks. If I were your people, I will completely feel suffocated, as every idea had to be funnelled through you, dampening my enthusiasm and passion to deliver the best work quality I intended to do. 

This is the biggest red flag of all. You like to take undue credit for the success of your team and fail to recognise the contributions of your own team members. Despite your creation of a toxic working environment, low morale and full of dissatisfaction, the team still delivered. Yet, you are the one conveniently taking the credit.  

This self-centred behaviour sucks, as it bred animosity, leading to increased turnover and a decline in overall team performance. People will just leave you for a better working environment and positive culture.

To recap

It’s okay. You can continue to become the ‘leader’ since you are one of the important people in the company anyway as your position is deemed safe from being dethroned. And it is okay too to act as a ‘perfect leader’ for your community on LinkedIn to see. 

Yet, people under you will still see you as a person who lacks genuine leadership qualities. You don’t listen, you finger-point other people for mistakes and deflect blame, you love to micro-manage your subordinates, and you are a credit junkie. These behaviours demotivate other people and hinder the true progress of the company. 

Once you undo all these unruly behaviours, then only you are able to genuinely inspire yourself and your people to achieve greatness and lead them with integrity and dignity.

And you will see they respect you more.

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