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Being a Bad Leader: 5 Ways to Improve Your Leadership Abilities through Communication

Harvard Business Publishing recently reported on "The 10 Most Common Leadership Shortcomings." Below are five of the 10 shortcomings you can instantly avoid by improving your communication skills.

by Shari Alexander
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Harvard Business Publishing recently reported on "The 10 Most Common Leadership Shortcomings." Below are five of the 10 shortcomings you can instantly avoid by improving your communication skills. Your leadership abilities (and your job) could depend on how effective you are at motivating and communicating with your team.

Lack of energy and enthusiasm

If you're not jazzed about what you're saying, how can you expect your listeners to be? Energy and enthusiasm can't be sparked by a melancholy leader. When you have a hard time getting pumped about a topic, you must trick your mind and use emotional transfer. Before you speak, use anything that can trigger (or anchor) a positive emotion. Listen to the Rocky theme song. Put pictures of your kids next to your notes. Watch your favorite "Family Guy" episode on Hulu. Use anything that makes you feel energized. Then, work on transferring your emotional state when you speak. Therefore, what you're saying comes from the words in your presentation, and how you are saying it comes from your emotional transference.

Lack of clear vision and direction

In "Field of Dreams" we heard, "If you build it, they will come." When it comes to leading a group, "If they see it, they will follow." Almost 90 percent of our brain's sensory input comes from visual stimuli. If you are able to clearly paint a picture of the goals you want to reach, your team instantly will see the future they are working towards. How will their day-to-day life be different (better) if they achieve the goal? How will the company change and improve? What feelings will they feel after the accomplishment? Be as clear and detailed as necessary.

Don't collaborate

Part of motivating a team is empowering them to take on more responsibilities. Successful collaboration requires good communication. Improve your collaboration skills by clearly defining the desired end result, develop and agree on processes and responsibilities, and ask for feedback, and communicate with all parties throughout the process.

Resist new ideas

Sometimes communicating is shutting up. Leading and motivating are not about dictating. As amazing, wonderful, and smart as you are, you don't have all the answers, but your team might. You may never learn the fantastic solutions your team has to offer if you keep talking. It's understandable that you don't want every meeting to be a lengthy brainstorming session. Therefore, you must remember to be structured in how you ask for ideas. Pose a problem, and allow everyone to jot down their ideas and then let each person suggest one of their best ideas. You can even go through a similar process via e-mail. This way you are not setting up unnecessary meetings. Your team will feel motivated and empowered knowing their ideas are heard. And when one of their ideas is used, you instantly increase your employee engagement and productivity.

Lack of interpersonal skills

While this is a very general statement, no one can deny that interpersonal skills play a big role in leadership abilities. Perception is key. If you are perceived as a grump, then your team will keep their distance and avoid conversations with you. If you are perceived as welcoming and interested, then you probably will get more collaborative success out of your team members. In order to be perceived as relatable, practice keeping your body language open and engaged. Your team will feel closed off from you if you tend to lean back in your chair, cross your arms, and sit silently stone-faced. Instead, lean slightly forward with your hands above the desk. Smile slightly while listening and occasionally nod your head in acknowledgement. Your team will feel like you care and are giving them 100 percent of your attention, which is much better than the alternative.

You might be thinking, this is all fairly obvious information. Everyone knows to avoid these problems. Before you disregard this information, take a look at what the surveyors also discovered: "…the ineffective leaders we studied were often unaware they exhibited these behaviors. In fact, those who were rated most negatively rated themselves substantially more positively." In order to improve your leadership abilities, you need to check your ego at the door and routinely ask for honest feedback. Otherwise, you might be making detrimental mistakes and not even know it.