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7 Ways You’re Leading Like a Caricature. Grow Up.

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7 ways you're leading like caricature

I can remember high school committees. Never on the prom committee, I stuck to Amnesty International, World Affairs, and other clubs that would make my college application rise to the top. Now, as an adult, I can laugh when I see the way student leaders are mirrored so clearly on the big and small screen.

A few months ago, I watched a high school dance committee in action as a supportive parent from the sidelines. It was like the movie Election crossed with Clueless with a dash of Mean Girls thrown in for good measure. They were living caricatures from iconic teen movies IRL. It was a sociologist’s dream. Unfortunately, it was their life and the ripples, no, tsunamis that followed each meeting left hurt feelings and ended friendships in their wake. Luckily, my child escaped the worst of it.

Tracy Flick

Few people are exceptional leaders out of the gate. These teens were finding their way, yet as someone who studies leadership, it was painful to watch. Even more painful, there are many leaders inside of organizations today whose leadership skills never developed beyond these young leaders on the dance committee. It’s as if they were ripped out of a dark comedy. Too bad it isn’t funny to work for them or with them.

Think for a sec. Do you know a leader or two or ten who have some growing up to do? Who reminds you all too much of a movie? Maybe they are like one of these archetypal leaders from the latest high school satire.

The Doer Leader:

Something has to get done; they raise their hand.  They are 100% in the mix willing to do whatever it takes and work harder than almost anyone. They execute more than ideate. Without their trusty list, they’re lost. Teams need them, but they run the risk of taking on too much.

What do people say behind closed doors?

They’re often referred to as a kiss-ass because they will do anything and everything… with a smile.

Is this you?

Instead of blindly taking everything on with gusto, don’t be afraid to challenge what needs to happen. Bring your ideas to the table, not only your exceptional “get it done at all costs” attitude.

The “This Is What We Want, Right?” Leader

Idea central, but listening and changing are not their strong suits. They have a vision and are unafraid to share it. When they look to the group for confirmation of their ideas, it’s actually more of a dare than an invitation to speak up and add other thoughts to the mix.

What do people say behind closed doors?

Bighead, loud voice, not worth a potential clash that’s virtually impossible to win.

Is this you?

It’s essential to have a vision but also be a collaborator. You need to enroll people in your vision, not merely tell them what it is.

The “Who Needs You” Leader

Things are off track; they get it back on the rails. Instead of raising issues and having an uncomfortable confrontation, they’ll take action and go around and above the official leader. They take over, steamroll, and act as if they’re saving the day when, in fact, they are compounding existing complications.

What do people say behind closed doors?

F*#k. Jerks.

Is this you?

Instead of jumping to your boss’s boss, or going directly to the client, put together a plan to calmly discuss your concerns and suggestions. Don’t do it with the whole group present, so it divides the team in half, and they have to pick Mom or Dad, but engage 1×1.

The “Sounds Good” Leader

Someone else’s idea is best. They may have stepped up to lead or be on the leadership team, but they have no thought or vision of their own. They think they’re going with the flow by avoiding conflict at all costs, but are also willing to settle for mediocrity. Often, they’ll distance themselves at a moment’s notice.

What do people say behind closed doors?

OMG. Have an opinion.

Is this you?

Step up and speak out. If you’re holding back because of self-doubt, the more you get used to feeling uncomfortable and putting yourself out there, the better. It may not get more comfortable with time, but you’ll know that when you do risk sharing your opinion, you’ll survive and even thrive.

The “Hanger-on” Not-so-Leader Leader

Why are they here again? Oh, yeah, they’re friends with the right people. They are like an echo and never the signal. You wonder how they got the job because, as far as you can tell, they mostly check Instagram and spend endless hours on email – ready to respond ASAP when the big boss needs them. They are someone else’s eyes and ears more than a leader at all.

What do people say behind closed doors?

Do you know anyone who’s hiring?

Is this you?

You are smart and capable and can do a heck of a lot more than being someone’s puppet. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself and share your ideas to let them know that you’ve got this and what you need, more than being told what to do, is their trust.

The “Goss” Leader

They are the ones behind the closed doors,  whispering, and planting seeds that are more like weeds. They smile in the meeting and undermine the moment it’s over. Their concerns are never raised in the meeting, but afterward, it’s clear they had a lot to say. They’re more comfortable wielding the commodity of insider intel vs. creating a strong outcome. Influence reigns supreme they say, but not at the expense of team success.

What do people say behind closed doors?

The “Goss” leader knows because they’re the ones saying it and keeping track of what you have to say in return.

Is this you?

Playing politics and unleashing your concerns after the meeting isn’t leading. Instead of complaining or making promises and kissing babies, lead. Be a role model who shows the team what integrity looks like in action.

The “Quitter” Leader

Things get tough, and they wave goodbye. Never truly invested in the work or the vision, they walk away and leave the team in a lurch without a second thought. Sure, maybe it’s harder, or less interesting, or more difficult than it was supposed to be, but as long as it’s not what they signed on for, they’re done.

What do people say behind closed doors?

Seriously? Who does that? They were supposed to lead the charge, and instead, they left us with was a mess without even a wave goodbye.

Is this you?

Not every project will be a load of fun with your ideal team. Decide if your legacy will be someone who quits or persists. You create your legacy through your actions.

There are thousands of books and blogs out there on how to be an exceptional leader. You can read them all, but in the end, it’s what you do that matters. Will you learn and improve or be a caricature from a teen movie?

Related: Want to Make Life Instantly Better? Look for a Silver Lining

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