Recognizing and Avoiding Barriers to Leadership

Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions. —Harold S. Greene

What is leadership? Is it simply the act of influencing the decisions and behavior of others? No. This can be done in many ways, even through the use of coercion, intimidation or the threat of reprisal, none of which show leadership. We believe that leadership is the ability to guide others to understand and become invested in your ideas while you direct them on the path required to accomplish the tasks at hand.

It is more than telling someone what to do; it’s participating in the process and leading from the front, rather than a position in the rear.

Having the unique opportunity to work in the casino industry as both operators managing a staff and as vendors working in conjunction with operational employees has provided us with a perspective of our industry most do not see. The required balance between strong leadership and clear channels of communication must be maintained in order to operate a profitable business while preserving the happiness of your guests and team members.

Being a leader has nothing to do with heading up a company, holding an executive position or having the words director, manager or supervisor embossed on your business card. Management alone is not leadership. It is entirely possible to hold any of the positions we listed and possess no leadership abilities whatsoever. While leaders always manage, managers don’t necessarily lead.

Being a true leader is hard work and keeping your staff performing at a high level is even harder. Some managers wake up in the morning and when heading into the office say, “Today, I’m going to be a better leader.” Becoming a better leader is not as easy as adding it to your to-do list. Ultimately, leadership boils down to guiding and inspiring others to give their personal best day in and day out. It sounds easy, right? Wrong!

There are many barriers that get in the way of leaders successfully guiding others toward a common goal. While many of the barriers that arise are in the control of the manager, others are outside of their influence. How managers deal with these situations goes a long way toward proving their ability to lead. Here’s a list of a few leadership barriers, along with our opinions on how you should react to become a better leader.

Treat Your Staff Like You’d Treat Yourself
Your staff is dependent on you, and staff members are always looking to you for guidance, even if they don’t ask for it. Your staff looks for and craves consistency from you. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to provide it. No matter where you are on property or what you say and what you do, there is almost always someone around that will pass your words or actions on to others. Do not talk or carry tales about anyone because there are few secrets in our business. Do not ask one employee about their opinion on another employee of the same rank or standing; it’s not only inappropriate, it’s demoralizing to your staff. Lastly, do not withhold information that would necessitate your staff to make decisions regarding their future or the future of their family. As a leader you have the moral responsibility to look out for the well being of your staff right up to the day they are no longer your staff.

Manipulation is Not Leadership
Guiding, influencing or maneuvering staff members to accomplish a task is far different than manipulating them through devious, deceitful or underhanded tactics. If you have read a book saying that manipulation is a positive leadership trait, you need to change your reading list. Manipulating emotions to create dominant relationships is the trait of a sociopath, not a leader.

Leading Requires a Hands-Off Approach
Get out of the way and let you team do their job—that’s really what they want to do! As a leader you need to create and maintain an environment that breeds success. Give your staff credit for their accomplishments; their success is a reflection of your leadership abilities. When your staff falters, guide them. When they achieve, reward them.

Develop Your Staff
Our positions often require us to establish goals as a means to meet the expectations of the business and the revenue stream. While the goals are important benchmarks to strive for, you should never make the choice to meet those goals at the expense of staff development. Being a leader often requires us to deal with people and situations that are messy and possibly unpleasant. These are the times we have to be extra diligent; it can be easier to just meet the goal while avoiding the mess. Spend the needed time to focus on your team. Remember, the horses in the barn are the ones that determine how you finish the race.

Make Informed, Educated Decisions
True leadership decisions are based on substantiated fact rather than rumor or innuendo. While it can be easier and quicker to listen to one or two trusted employees to help form your decisions, you should always do your own homework. No matter how much you trust another human being, it’s nearly impossible to determine their motivation or intentions in regard to the employee or situation in question.

Fail Quickly and Learn from Mistakes
We all make mistakes. Mistakes should not be looked at as failures or poor leadership and should never be hidden from others. Spend some time reflecting on the mistake at hand and allow others to learn from your mistakes by shedding light on them. Sharing low points as well as high points with your staff shows them that you are not perfect and instead human just like they are.

Remove Personal Bias
The path to hell isn’t based on good intentions, rather on good people choosing to make poor decisions to keep themselves employed. Is a job, any job, worth your self-respect? Your employer relies on you to provide them with all the facts, even if the specifics are distressing or unappealing. Making poor management decisions based on the concept that this is not the hill I’m prepared to die on is not only wrong, it’s destructive. Each time you concede in this manner, you weaken your role as a leader and diminish your capacity.

A true leader makes the choice to do the right thing each time, not only those times it’s comfortable or when it benefits them. Similarly, how many managers do you know that are consistently making poor decisions because the paycheck has become the most important factor of the job? How many times have you based a decision on your paycheck rather than the merits of the decision itself? Leadership demands us to make decisions based on our true feelings and observations, rather than just following orders we know to be wrong.

The Ostrich Tactic
We have all worked with managers who employed the ostrich tactic of burying their heads in the sand to avoid conflict or ignore a problem. There is a true void in leadership when managers make the conscious decision to shirk the responsibilities of the position because the red tape involved is just not worth it. Rather than addressing the issues at hand, they turn their heads like it never happened. This behavior will cause tension, animosity and inevitably lead to a breakdown in the management structure of a business. It will also inevitably lead to the loss of respect for both the position and for the manager as a person.

Do you remember why we became supervisors or managers? It was to make sure the job was completed correctly. We know of no one becoming a manager to get mired in company politics or to be a yes man. Be the person you would want to be your leader. Be aware and actively address those barriers that threaten to prevent or stop your growth as a leader. If you lead by example and make your leadership decisions based on the values you respect, anytime you look in the mirror the face that stares back will be someone you can be proud of.

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