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Practice Management > Building Your Business > Leadership

8 Signs You Are a Cowardly Leader, Part 2

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It’s a tough time to be running your own business. You must make smart business decisions if you hope to survive. A new book by speaker and author Mike Staver promises to show you how fear can limit your potential. Leadership Isn’t for Cowards examines the ways fear can obscure your way forward and interfere with courageous leadership.

Here are eight more signs you might be driven by fear:

9. You’re always blaming others. This way of dealing with difficulties is counterproductive. Playing the victim puts the situation outside your control. Consequently, you can avoid taking action that would change things. “Blame-based leadership seeks to find a bad guy…to absorb the problem, like a lightning rod absorbs a bolt of otherwise dangerous electricity,” explains Staver. “Courageous leaders are driven by, even obsessed with, the imperative to eliminate excuse-making and blame from themselves and their organizations.”

10. You increase pressure rather than remove the pinch points. Ever tried to drink from a hose that had a kink in it? Would you get better results by turning up the faucet or undoing the kink? Until you eliminate the kink—the pinch point—no amount of pressure will help quench your thirst. “Too many leaders…push employees harder or offer new programs, initiatives and incentives to try to push them into compliance. Imagine how much more effective it would be to summon up your courage and address the pinch points that need addressing,” says Staver.

11. You’re too hard. Do you recognize your employees for their achievements? Don’t withhold recognition until the final goal is attained. “Sometimes leaders fear that pouring on the recognition before the job is done will demotivate followers. Sometimes courage looks like trusting your employees; sometimes it looks like getting out of your comfort zone long enough to provide face-to-face recognition that people crave,” observes Staver.

12. You praise too much. Where too-hard leaders are stingy with praise, others encourage their followers so often that the acknowledgment loses its effectiveness. There’s gushing (praising with such force that it raises suspicions) or false recognition (praising that seems out of character). Both forms of over-praising can actually backfire. Staver explains that “maybe at the root of the behavior is a fear of the ‘confrontation’ involved in giving meaningful critical feedback.”

13. You reward effort instead of achievement. It’s possible to be too soft with your expectations. Encouragement is not enough to motivate everyone. Someone must drive achievement and that person is you. A brave leader will set down expected results and clearly state the consequences of those results not being met. Explains Staver, “I am in full support of a respectful workplace where people enjoy their jobs and look forward to coming to work, but I am also in full support of less whining and more doing, less passing the buck and more personal responsibility.”

14. You’re a helicopter. Accountability is central to good leadership, and it’s important for leaders to keep people performing well. However, this doesn’t mean hovering over an employee like an over-involved parent.

“Helicopter leaders are afraid to let go because they believe the work won’t get done if they don’t oversee every detail,” says Staver. “The solution is simple: Do your job and let them do theirs, or get rid of incompetent employees and replace them with people who can get the job done.”

15. You solve others’ problems. Solving problems is part of being a leader. But it’s also a part of being a follower. Your employees need to be able to tackle their own problems just as they need to be able to accomplish results in their jobs. “Do not solve all of your followers’ problems,” advises Staver. “The more they depend on you, the more they will hesitate when solving problems. If they know you will come in and fix the problem, they will wait. They will also feel that you don’t have confidence in them.”

16. You’re distracted by mental clutter. The more you fear, the more you try to do things to counteract that fear. So, you have more meetings, more calls, more to think about. Once you let go of fear, you can say no to some of these activities. This will free up the time and space to do the things that will give you peace of mind and make you a great leader. “Without those moments of peace and clarity, you will keep on rushing until you burn out,” says Staver.

Being a strong leader takes courage. And sometimes the opponent who poses the greatest risk is not your competitor but yourself. With the proper tools and techniques, you can learn to banish fear and lead your troops to victory.

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