Jeff is a hotshot entrepreneur who up to this point has become accustomed to calling his own shots. However, when a dream job offer appears on his desk one day, he knows he would be ill-advised to turn it down.
Stable income, full benefits, and the ability to take a fledgling startup into the stratosphere. Jeff decides to take the position, which puts him in a leadership position right off the bat.
As he goes into his first few weeks of work with the small business, Jeff notices that he’s having some trouble finding common ground with his new employees. He feels as if they don’t have a lot of respect for him, and they don’t seem too impressed with his previous experience starting his own companies.
What Jeff doesn’t see is the air of superiority he’s been putting off since day one when he first walked into the building. He felt it was confidence, but his employees interpreted his bravado as cockiness, arrogance even.
Instead of establishing a rapport with his direct reports, Jeff has alienated them. And he doesn’t even know it yet.
If this situation sounds familiar, that’s normal. Leadership is not something that everyone is naturally adept at. Respect is not automatically given, particularly in situations where the new leader is coming from outside of the company.
So what could Jeff have done differently in this situation?
First, Jeff could take the time to get to know his direct reports a bit more. Rather than simply going in with assumptions that things will go according to plan and that everyone will just fall into line, Jeff could show a bit more empathy and understanding.
In addition, Jeff may have mistakenly come across as too arrogant rather than the confidence he was intending to project. Confidence is always beneficial to have, especially in situations where the individual is the outlier.
Instead of leading with his long list of accomplishments, Jeff could allow his actions and his leadership skills to take the lead and speak for themselves. Leadership does not only come from experience, but also in the approach. It’s easy to put people off and not so easy to earn their trust and loyalty back.
Effective leadership comes with a strong sense of empathy and humility. Those who do not exercise these skills may find themselves in a bit of a hole when it comes to employees responding positively. Jeff needs to understand that this is a process and that jumping in with both feet in the wrong way can easily set the wrong tone.
Respect in the workplace can be one of the most difficult things for a person in a leadership position to obtain. This process requires patience and an ability to see the situation from a logical perspective, rather than letting emotion rule all.
Through consistent actions, leaders can earn trust by showing their trustworthiness and ability to lead. This will not be an overnight process, but a person who is dedicated to making their efforts successful will see the fruits of their labor pay off over time.
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