In some cases, employees within a company start out at the bottom and work their way up over time. In other cases, people are hired directly into management. Whatever the experience has been for you, opportunities are to be had along the way. As the below infographic will show, there are different levels to each individual’s abilities. Below I will explain the moments of opportunity that you have as an individual to grab hold of along the way and how you can be a leader no matter what level you find yourself in today.

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Level 1 Highly Capable Individual

This is where the molding of an individual happens in the workplace.

Level 2 Contributing Team Member

Once you have time to begin feeling comfortable in level one, then you can begin contributing more to your team. This is where the buy-in to the company’s vision takes place, and you can not only improve yourself, but you can begin to show others what you have learned.

Level 3 Competent Manager

After a contributing team member spends time honing in and crafting their knowledge and expertise, it won’t be long until this individual will be looked at for advancement. Have your work be so excellent that it speaks for itself and moves you higher into a position of authority.

Level 4 Effective Leader

The main difference between a leader and a manager is that a leader leads people while a manager manages things. I don’t know about you, but influencing people sounds like it has a lot more impact than managing things. Don’t settle for being a manager, but focus on how becoming a leader will set you apart from the crowd.

Level 5 Executive

When you find yourself at this level you are usually very knowledgeable, have a sense of ownership with your company, are invested in the people that work for you, are self-motivated, and are very driven to expand your company to places that it has never been before.

Of course, the above example is the natural progression of someone who is in a company over a period of time who works their way up the company ladder. But again, the main point to take from leadership here is that no matter what level you are in as described by the infographic, you can be a leader. Leadership is a daily choice that each one of us makes. A common misconception is that leadership is a title and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Leadership is a mindset that an individual has to influence others in either a negative or a positive manner.

In contrast, each of us face a few key points along our leadership journey to either exceed expectations or fail miserably in. While in some things it is okay to fail because we get the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, there are a few areas in which there really is no room for error. It could be the rise or fall of a company’s existence.

Listed below are some of the most common mistakes that leaders make and how you as a leader can avoid them:

1. Denial

This is key point number one because it’s usually black or white on this subject and not much gray area. Leaders are either okay with confrontation or they aren’t. They either want to deal with the issues that they need to or they shy away from them, hoping somehow they deal with themselves. The situations that I am describing happen most often when leaders like to avoid confrontation.

So, can leaders learn to face problems head on even if they aren’t wired for confrontation? Absolutely. Leaders who are in the “trenches” on a daily basis need to see the issues at hand that are causing real problems. When leaders see first hand the magnitude of why something needs to be done immediately to solve a problem, they will begin to realize why confrontation is a must, even if they aren’t a confrontational person.

Leaders can avoid denial by not only being available to see that what is happening within the company, but aware, self-motivated, and passionate about what they are doing.

When passion is lacking from a leader, they are not the only ones that are affected. Company employees feel the brunt of a leader’s inability in their day-to-day work environment.

2. Keeping all the power

When responsibility isn’t given away to others, it does two things. First, it will cause quick burnout in the lives of leaders. Second, it makes others feel useless. A lack of teamwork and communication ensues.

You can avoid this by developing trust with your team.

Trusting others by delegating necessary tasks and empowering others to make decisions is a step in the right direction. Delegation should always be a top priority when possible to maintain focus on your top daily plans. Leaders, begin to mentor others instead of keeping all of the responsibility to yourselves.

Create a team mentality in your endeavors. When people feel they can add value, it creates a feel of ownership that cannot be replaced.

3. Lack of vision

To avoid a lack of vision, you need to have the right vision. You first need to know the “Why.”

As a leader, you not only need to know the WHY behind why you are doing what you do, but you have to communicate it to those around you. Do you do what you do because of your customers? Because of your staff? Because you want to be your best? Because it is fun? Whatever your reason is, it needs to be contagious. Once you have the idea behind the why, you need to write out a mission statement. Let this be your motivation. Let this be the motivation of those around you. You will need to look at it on those days you just don’t feel like it, so keep it handy.

Once this step is taken care of, it is time to make a few plans. First, make a five year plan. Where do you want to be in five years? Dream big. Now, work backwards. What is a realistic plan for three years from now to get you to that five year plan? More importantly, what do you need to be doing this year, this quarter, this month, this week, and today to get there. What is your plan for this year to get you to your wildest dreams? This is yet another piece of important information that you need to keep in front of you to drive you through those times that you feel that mediocrity is okay.

It is important to know that those feelings of mediocrity, but it is even more important to know how to push through these moments.

If you do what I have mentioned previously, you will avoid the downfall of taking everything as it comes instead of planning. It is easy to find yourself here, if not careful. When your schedule fills up because items weren’t taken care of, unnecessary stress is soon to follow. Avoid this stress that doesn’t have to happen by planning ahead, making a clear plan, and communicating it to your team. This is another step that will make your life easier as a leader and will help your team stay motivated and committed.

4. Creativity is not a priority

Thinking outside the box is necessary for any kind of growth to happen. It is more important than ever for continuous momentum so that growth is top-of-mind for leaders, both personally and in the business world. There is more competition than ever before and other important factors that will either help or hurt you in your journey.

Avoid a lack of creativity by facing your fears and stepping out.

Trying new things is a necessity in the creativity process. Don’t be afraid to step out and push others to reach inside themselves to find the most potential. Learn that it is okay to make creative mistakes along the way to find greatness and to become a better leader.

5. Not looking at the people on your team

Maybe you are doing all the right things, but haven’t looked at the team you are leading. Don’t get comfortable where things are when you could be increasing your reach to even more than where it is right now.

Avoid becoming stale by always having a fresh perspective on the state of your team.

Do you have the best people on the team? If you do, then great. They may just not be in the right spot. Team chemistry is too important to overlook. Is your team cohesive in their pursuits? If not, it may be time to look for other teammates.

Are the wrong people on the bus or are they just not in the right seat?

6. Personal relationships with your team isn’t important

People will want to do more for you when they like you rather than when they are afraid of you or just don’t know what to say to you.

Relationships are key to having a flow of communication. Trust comes through strong relationships, and that is when people will be able to open up and add even more value than they are right now. Go out of your way to create one-on-one time with each individual on your team to further engage on a personal level. Doing this will open dialogue both in your personal and professional environment.

Avoid connection problems with others by creating strong relationships through genuinely wanting to know other people on a friendship level rather than just a surface, business level.

Ask yourself,

Who am I leading, helping, and inspiring?

If leadership is influence, then you need to know who you are leading.

Through this one question you can begin to really grasp the magnitude of your reach as a leader.

Yes, being a leader is an incredibly important role that deserves your attention. But, even if you see that you possess one, a few, or even all of these traits, it isn’t too late to switch your leadership style and begin making less leadership mistakes. Begin using these six laid out steps to improve your leadership level and become a better leader starting today.

How to be a productive leader that people look up to? 9 Habits of Highly Productive Leaders

Featured photo credit: Chess, playing with white pieces via Shutterstock,Leadership Chart via Barking Up The Wrong Tree

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