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Op/Ed

How to know if you’re an ineffective leader

(EDITORIAL) Leadership is hard as is, there’s no need to make it harder on yourself. Avoid these bad-leader habits and you’ll be golden.

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Leading can be tough

Whether you are heading a soccer team, a choir, or a team of young realtors, being a leader is tough. Even the best leaders have character flaws. Under pressure, these peccadilloes are often exacerbated. If you find yourself in a position of influence, your flaws may magnify into strategic disasters.

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To prevent such scenarios, it is critical that we dissect our own behavior, not only for the sake of our professional careers, but also for our own conscience and sense of self-worth.

Tips for success

Use the following 4 red-flag-raising behaviors as a blueprint, making sure you refrain from (or rectify) these mistakes as you evolve into a better leader.

1. Wavering on tough calls

Bad leadership 101 is an indecisive leader. A pitiful half-panicked state of ‘I cannot make up my mind’ hesitation. Nothing frustrates a team more.

More poignantly, nothing destroys an employee’s respect in a leader quicker.

Decisions, especially the big ones, need a steadying, confident hand. Buying yourself time, by demanding more research from the team, or hiding behind the excuse of another round of “brainstorming” shall only delay the inevitable. Rise to the occasion; do not be dragged to it by your circumstances. Dignify a problem with a decision!

2. Inefficient communication

This problem is more nuanced than simply bad communication. It may mean three things: under-communication, obfuscation, or over-communication. Try to avoid each like the black plague.
Nothing makes a project stall quicker than an unclear path forward. Make time to explain things to the team, clearly and precisely. Lay down a path. After all, that is your job! No one can be a “leader whisperer” or thought interpreter.

A team should not have to second-guess the direction of an assignment.

Obfuscation stems from the leader’s own lack of direction. Do not call a meeting where there is nothing definitive to announce. What is the operational plan? How should it be implemented? Do not assume that a plan shall present itself during a meeting.

Then there’s the sin of over-explaining.

This is a behavior where the leader drones on and on, wasting vital time, in order to elicit tacit or verbal endorsement of his/her idea. This is the control-freak micro-manager. Efficient communication does not mean more time in the conference room. Efficient communication is more productivity in less time.

3. Abusing power privileges

Leaders enjoy considerable leeway to enforce their decisions. However, it is easy to forget that this “power” exists not for the leader to bask in its glory, but to deploy as necessary for the team to operate more efficiently. The possibilities in which a leader can abuse power are countless, and varies wildly, but here are some of the usual suspects:

Humiliating an employee publicly: constructive criticism is an art, delivered with compassion. It requires restraint and strength. Weak leaders have “outbursts”, aspire to being feared by others, and work hard on creating an air of intimidation and un-approachability.

Breaking your own word: Leaders may also make casual promises to a client during a meeting, without owning up to the promise. The leader may then avoid to the agreed upon request entirely, or worse, hand it off to subordinates to deal with. Empty promises make for empty leaders.

Rewarding loyalty: Leaders often play favoritism by distributing assignments and workloads unevenly.

Feigning neutrality: This may seem contradictory to the previous point, but it is not. A leader should take clear sides on arguments (not people) put forward. Not committing to opposing views leaves everyone direction-less and confused. There are good ideas, less good ideas, great ideas, and terrible ideas. Which one do you like? Whose is it? Point it out. Give direction and move forward.

Insubordination: Weak leaders often bad-mouth their bosses, behind their back, in order to win cookie-points with the team. It shows a lack of dependability, trust and character.

4. Evading feedback at all costs

If your team cannot express grievances, complaints and concerns freely, your leadership is off the mark. The most likely cause: YOUR unwillingness to take responsibility for failure. Shifting blame to others for what has gone wrong, attributing harsh decision (like letting someone go) to “the company” and not yourself, bemoaning lack of resources as an unfortunate scenario where your hands are tied— these are all ways to clamp down on criticism. Seeking revenge on, or appeasing your critics is worse.

If you do not like employees to ask you questions, you should reevaluate your own position immediately. Feedback is essential to growth. To dismiss them as “whining” is going to kill your effectiveness as a true leader. In times of true crisis, you will find it impossible to rally the troops to your cause.

Leader to the core

Keeping these common leadership flaws in mind shall help you become “self-aware,” your best guard against becoming a horrible boss. In the process, it will take you much further—it will inspire you to inspire others, the very essence of great leadership.

Barnil is a Staff Writer at The Real Daily. With a Master's Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

Op/Ed

Why “The Complete Guide to Not Giving a F**k” is Bulls**t

(EDITORIAL) Having thick skin is great, but a famous blog, “The Complete Guide to Not Giving a F***” misses the point that for most, it’s a carefully choreographed marketing tactic, and a luxury.

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Warning: cuss words ahead…

One of my favorite pieces ever penned on the web is called The Complete Guide to Not Giving a Fuck by Julien Smith, first published on his personal blog and recently republished on Medium. The piece is well written and argues a point that is so rarely argued effectively – constant worrying about what others think is a prison and you should regain your self-respect by putting less emphasis on every single person in the world’s opinion.

The theory is well founded and is totally true, but the Guide has been shared for years on the web as an excuse to be an asshole, so I’m calling bullshit on the entire Guide. Not on Smith’s words (they’re right and I have emailed them to over 50 people over the years), but on how non-readers are taking it. People skim the story, share it, tag me because I like cuss words and have thick skin, and move on, thinking that Smith meant to tell everyone that they should never care what others think.

First of all, if you’re here, you’re most likely a business professional, right? If so, you typically can’t just puff your chest in this world and act like a dick. Sure, there are people that have made lucrative careers out of being hated, but they work very hard to appeal to other haters and attract like minds, which isn’t exactly not giving a fuck about what others think – that’s the dirty secret of today’s villains, particularly online.

Smith’s point was that developing a thick skin is freeing. And he’s right. But, it’s a process that takes time, and must be carefully choreographed. Constantly lobbing grenades because you’re now a badass who doesn’t care what others think is self-destructive and misses the point.

There is a substantial difference between “not giving a fuck” and letting irrelevant commentary and judgment roll off of your back. Guess what? Not all commentary is irrelevant. Your boss tells you that you suck at something? Better not give her the middle finger or you’re unemployed. A client calls and you’re hostile with them because you don’t have to take their shit? Bye bye, customer.

A now unemployed former Sprint kiosk sales guy comments on your blog that you’re wrong and stupid? Sure, let that roll off of your back. But not the rest. Don’t “not give a fuck” for the sake of not giving a fuck. Don’t be a moron.

Here’s the part where I disagree…

So far, I’ve agreed with Smith, but over the years, and particularly since his editorial was republished, I’ve put a lot of personal thought into why the piece rubs me the wrong way, and I’ve finally figured it out.

I have thick skin. For the most part, people like me. I don’t know why, but people like me – I’m told often that I’m likeable. That’s cool.

I am also well respected in my industry and by my peers. Also cool.

Therefore, my not giving a fuck is a luxury. I’ve already built a personal brand and helped build extremely large communities online and off, so I get to have thick skin because I somehow magically earned it. If some kid signs up for a Twitter account and starts throwing grenades, they’re blown off as a punk turd. If I take to my own airwaves to attack an idea, people listen because I’ve earned an audience. Do you see the difference?

“I get asked a lot how I developed such a thick skin, and the truth is that it took many years and a natural maturation process to realize that not everyone will adore me, and that I can be wrong. A lot.”

I was able to develop a thick skin because I had collected a huge army of supporters over time should I need it, and so I am not often attacked (but when I am, guess what happens??). Let’s be honest, I also have the advantage of being a younger woman, so I get to be a little more brash than my counterparts, and people like that – but that isn’t me not giving a fuck, that’s me being silly for the most part.

I disagree with Smith on his guide, because some people don’t have the luxury of not giving a fuck. It is freeing and something everyone should try, but it does not apply to all situations at all times, and the bizarre truth is that it has to be earned in most situations.

This editorial originally appeared on The American Genius.

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Op/Ed

The rest of the world has caught up to the Realtor way of working constantly

(EDITORIAL) How do you respond to people that complain they’re working at all hours? Just welcome them to the Realtor way of life!

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Until you practice real estate, you have no idea how many hours per week that entails, how insanely late or early clients will call with urgent needs, how much you live in your car, and how novel the memories of a 9-5 are.

From the outside, it looks like you can do anything you want when you want, and yes, you have flexibility, but successful agents are seriously devoted to working their tails off. Many sacrifices are made, meals missed, and the idea of a non-working vacation is not usually a reality for practitioners (even when there is an assistant and/or team at play, there’s always something only you can answer).

You’ve changed a shower head in your client’s listing to appease a picky buyer and get the dang closing done, you’ve kept your promise to attend every closing (even on your wedding day (true story, my husband did that secretly)).

The internet has only changed the process, not the number of hours worked.

Technology has made Realtors more efficient, but as a population, you’ve just added more to your plate and worked even harder.

With the advent of smartphones and wifi, other industries have now adopted the same always on pace and mentality, and it occurred to me recently that the entire workforce has now adopted the Realtor method of working all day and figuratively all night.

“So to the rest of the world, I say, welcome to the club!”

Veteran Realtors can tell you that the pace can be grueling, but that the concept of work/life balance isn’t some new wave buzzword-filled theory, no, it’s been the Realtor way for decades upon decades.

So when people complain on Facebook about their boss calling them for some arbitrary reason at 10pm, or complain on Twitter that a customer expected an instant response at 1am, just tell them gently, “Welcome to the Realtor way of life!” because you’ve been adapted since the day your license number was issued!

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Op/Ed

Less sleep, less life. Science says so

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Sleep can be a great thing. In fact, a new study has proven that the more you get the longer your life will be — that’s pretty neat!

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Entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers, listen up: sleep is important and you need more of it.

We all know how important sleep is, but we try to ignore it anyway. New research from neurologist Matthew Walker states quite plainly that if you get less than seven hours at night you put yourself at higher risk for Alzheimer’s, dementia, heart attacks, strokes, and several different kinds of cancers. If seven hours feels indulgent, read on.

Walker, a sleep scientist at the University of California, has just written a new book entitled Why We Sleep in which he discusses the biological mechanisms of the processes that allow you to drift off.

Walker also discusses all of the things that our constantly busy and interconnected lives do to disrupt that process.

“First, we electrified the night,” Walker said in a quote to The Guardian. “Light is a profound degrader of our sleep. Second, there is the issue of work: not only the porous borders between when you start and finish, but longer commute times, too. No one wants to give up time with their family or entertainment, so they give up sleep instead.”

Another thing killing our restfulness at night? Our attitudes towards catching z’s.

Walker said that there is a strange increasing stigma around sleep, and that many consider it “lazy and shameful.”

Considering that so many problems arise from lack of sleep such as impaired functioning, amplified risk of diseases, weight gain, and mental health issues, a more appropriate attitude toward this necessity needs to be taken.

Entrepreneurs and business owners may have a hard time cutting themselves slack whenever choosing their bedtime, but in order to continue to operate at peak efficiency, bedtime must be a priority.

Here are some easy tips from sleep scientists to incorporate in your bedtime routine. First: no all nighters. They totally wreck your ability to function, and make you as cognitively impaired a drunk person.

Secondly, try to set a bedtime alarm every night so you can train your body to have an appropriate slumber pattern, which will help your ease of sleeping in the long run. Another easy tip being super strict about the “no screens” rule before bed, as the light emitted from our devices blocks melatonin (the sleep hormone) from secreting in the brain.

It may be hard to leave that email to another day, but your brain will thank you for it as you drift off to dreamland.

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