How do you stack up compared to other leaders in your organization? Odds are, you probably rate yourself at least average (or maybe even a bit above average). The trouble is, all your peers would probably rate themselves the same. This raises the question: average compared to…what? And if everyone is “average” then don’t you want to strive for something, well, better?
For those who don’t want to think critically about their own deficits and gaps, this kind of flawed logic may work fine. Average is a comfortable space to live in, after all: it means that you’re doing (mostly) fine, your team is (moderately) functional, and everyone is living up to (some of) their potential. It’s easy to slap the “average” label on your leadership abilities and then ignore most development opportunities because nothing is glaringly wrong. But this kind of mentality breeds complacency, and it actually sets you up for failure as a leader in the long run because it dulls your senses to the real issues.
You might also like: The Top 5 Skills Of Effective Leaders
Here are two signs that your leadership skills have been stagnating in “average” territory for too long:
You can’t remember the last time you were in a meeting in which you didn’t offer advice. Think hard about the last few one-on-ones you’ve had with your direct reports, or the last strategy meeting you were in. How active were you in proposing ideas and solutions, and how active were you in listening or asking questions? If you’re an average leader, then you probably spent most of your time in the former category. It may seem counter-intuitive, but some of the strategies that landed you a leadership position—novel ideas, creative thinking, bold strategies—are not what make a great leader. You’ve demonstrated that you know a good idea when you see one, and now it’s your job to grow that skill in others. It’s easy to fall back on sharing your own perspective or solving everyone’s issue for them, but in your next meeting, try to avoid this altogether--and see how difficult it is for you.
You’ve come up with improvement ideas… but few of them have ever been successfully implemented. Continuous improvement is a hugely important competency for any leader, but there’s a difference between conceptual and practical improvement. It’s great that you brainstormed a bunch of innovative ideas or gave your team a laundry list of efficiency suggestions, but are you tracking their actual implementation and success? Start taking personal responsibility for any of your improvement suggestions that don’t pan out, or any development plan that doesn’t get followed. It’s dangerously easy for a leader to fall into the habit of pointing out flaws without having any practical ideas for improvement, and it’s equally easy to brush off responsibility for follow through. You can’t just hold others responsible when your improvement ideas don’t work out; you need to hold yourself accountable for that failure and determine how to be more effective.
If any of these points ring true to you, don’t stress: you may be stuck in average territory, but you have the tools and the agency to elevate yourself. Your first step is to acknowledge and own it, but your second step is to take action. Otherwise, the best you can hope for is…meh.