Stop worrying about leadership behaviors: Focus on this instead

Get it right on the inside and you’ll get it right on the outside. That’s good advice that is rarely followed in today’s management literature. Instead there seems to be a focus on just getting it right on the outside. This can work, but it’s probably leaving your direct reports feeling a little empty at best—or distrusting at worst.

When leaders focus only on their behaviors and outside appearances, they are presenting a thin veneer of leadership that can work for a short while, but which eventually breaks down—especially under pressure.

Wondering how you can get it right on the inside instead of working so hard to act in a prescribed way on the outside? Here are some ways to get started. These are based on answers to the question, “Who was your best boss?” and “What made them so special?” that Blanchard consultants have been asking in classes and presentations over the years.

See people as assets to develop instead of liabilities to manage. Good leadership begins with a fundamental belief in people and the value that they can bring to a company. Where do you stand on this? Do you focus on people’s strengths and how to maximize them, or do you tend to focus on weaknesses and how to correct them? How does that impact your leadership behaviors?

Assume the best. People have good days and bad days. They make mistakes, exhibit poor judgment, and sometimes let you down. How do you react to these situations? What is the story that you are telling yourself about their actions? Are you assuming they had good intentions and just fell short, or does this just go to show that you were right about them all along? Your resulting leadership behavior will be very different depending on your mindset.

See yourself as a leader instead of as an evaluator. Part of leadership is matching skill sets to the overall goals of the organization. The ability to discern talent and apply it effectively is an important quality. But don’t make that the sole focus of your leadership. Instead, go beyond getting the right people in the right positions and actively work to help them succeed in their roles. See their success as a partnership between you and them. When people sense that you are on their side, helping them to succeed, they act and perform very differently than if they feel that you are primarily judging and evaluating them.

Beliefs and attitudes drive your behaviors. In today’s open and connected world, you have to be genuine and authentic. Leaders who get it right on the inside naturally display genuine behaviors on the outside that people respond to.

Take a look at your leadership beliefs. Work on the inside first.

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