The Tentative Leader

Everyone has their pet peeves; I have several.

The one that really annoys me is tentativeness and people who are tentative. We encounter tentative people all around us: driving in their car, standing in the grocery aisle, at the fast food counter, or walking through an airport concourse. They have that hesitant, faltering, timid way of meandering along and for those of us unfortunate enough to be behind them, it is torture!

There is no time or space for a tentative leader. You can’t be hesitant, timid, or tentative and be a leader at the same time. Leadership is not tentative; it’s purposeful. Leadership is action-oriented with an economy of motion. A leader knows what her goals are, knows how to attain those goals, and has the quiet confidence to make it happen.

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Here are a few thoughts to keep you from being a tentative leader:

1. Know your purpose

If you don’t know what you’re doing or why, your actions can’t be anything but tentative. Being tentative shows the lack of confidence. If you aren’t confident in your goal, aren’t confident in your abilities, your processes, or your people, then your actions will be weak and your results will suffer.

On the other hand, if you know your goal and your purpose, your actions will be purposeful and you’ll get your results.

Make sure you know your purpose. Have a clear vision in your mind and communicate that vision with your team. Discuss the purpose – the why – so that they understand what is expected. If you are an entrepreneur, write down your goals, purpose, and mission for yourself and your company. Keep that purpose in the forefront of your mind and let it steer your decisions.

2. Know your strengths and weaknesses (limitations)

Have you ever completed a SWOT analysis? SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. SWOT analysis is often used in businesses when they are contemplating the launch of a new product or a new service. I use a SWOT analysis in my coaching practice for clients who are considering a change in career or launching a new business, writing a book, etc.

Understanding your strengths is important. If you have a gift you’ll want to use that gift and make the most of your talents. At the same time, you need to take into consideration your weaknesses and/or limitations. Weaknesses are areas where you don’t have a specific knowledge or skill but can gain the knowledge or skill easily. For one of my clients – a fledgling author – her weakness was in the area of self-publishing. That was an area where she had no experience or knowledge but could easily gain through research (and she did it very successfully!).

On the other hand, a limitation is something that you have to learn to live with or work with; it’s not something that is easily overcome. This could be a physical or medical limitation. Limitations won’t necessarily stop you from achieving your goal but you will have to learn how to work with them.

Based on your strengths and weaknesses/limitations, and taking all of those into careful consideration, look at all the opportunities available to you. The more opportunities you can identify the better your chances for success. Threats are those things that can interfere with your opportunities (like your competition, legal constraints, legislation, etc.) or exacerbate your weaknesses or limitations. Identifying Threats will allow you to plan around them to mitigate or manage the impact.

Knowing your strengths, weaknesses/limitations, opportunities, and threats will give you the confidence to overcome any tentativeness.

3. Know your surroundings

I remember taking driver’s education in high school. Our teacher had one mantra: He would always tell us to be aware of our surroundings at all times. Know where the other cars are, know where the motorcycles are, know where your destination is, know what turns you need to make in advance, etc. To be a better driver you had to know where you were in relation to what was around you. That way you could make lane changes and alter your course without causing problems and you could arrive safely at your intended destination.

To be a good leader, you also have to know where you are in relation to your surroundings. What is the company doing? Where is the company headed? What are your employees doing and are their actions supporting the mission? Who has what skill and are those skills being used to their fullest? Who has the capacity for extra work? Who is your competition and what are they doing that differentiate their products or services from you?

By knowing your surroundings you can make better decisions and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

True leaders are not tentative. Their actions are purposeful and intentional, never stuttering or timid. By understanding your purpose, your strengths and your surroundings, you will be a more confident leader.

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