Maximized Leadership: Eight reasons competent leaders are sometimes viewed as incompetent. [Part One]

Perhaps you have known someone who was smart but lacked common sense. Or someone who always dressed very professionally but came across as rude and critical. Or someone who had a great personality but never seemed to get anything accomplished. Having intelligence, a good education, a professional demeanor, attractive appearance,  a great looking resume, an impressive title, and/or the ability to impress peers or employees with people you know or have connected with can be an advantage. However, many people who possess these qualities are quickly viewed by those they work for or work alongside as incompetent if any of the following eight issues begin surface in your work or leadership. Here are the first four:

  1. When you are perceived as lazy. I have taught my three daughters this principle and it has served them well. One is a senior in college with a 3.96 G.P.A.. A second is an elementary school teacher and by her second year was being tapped to orient new teachers on how to excel in managing their classroom. A third leveraged her work ethic into a $4.50 per hour raise last year. I shared with them how sadly easy it is to out-perform the average person by simply working a little harder (which is not that hard). Arrive a little earlier, stay a little later, be known as someone who gets the job done, don’t be a complainer, volunteer to do extra, and when you have an idea, own it and work to make it happen. But, whatever you do, never, never, never let it be said of you that you are lazy. If so, you will be viewed as incompetent no matter what your qualifications may be.
  2. When you are not purposefully punctual. This issue is cultural and you ignore it at your own leadership peril. Being on time, finishing on time, completing work on time, following agreed upon timelines, and timely responses to all forms of communications are examples of how punctuality needs to be applied. Everyone is subject to getting stuck in traffic, having a family emergency, or occasionally getting snowed under by the workload resulting in falling behind or being late. It is understandable. However, failure on this point should be the exception rather than the rule. Otherwise, you may have the highest academic degree in the room, but people are viewing you as lacking in competence.
  3. When you cannot get organized. This is a tough one for those who do not have administrative skills or gifts. The higher you go in an organization, the more you can get by with disorganization if you have the prerogative to compensate by bringing people around you who can organize for you. However, at any level of leadership or service, the inability to organize comes across as lack of competence even if you have the higher I.Q.  If it is not your gift, you must make it a discipline or surround yourself with others who do it for you.
  4. When you are unwilling to adopt new technologies. In order to be viewed as a competent leader, you need not be tech savvy nor do you need to possess the latest technological device. However, you must be tech aware at a minimum. I know some people who have titles, degrees, experience, and intelligence, but refuse to use email, to text, to engage in social networking, or to change day to day practices or communications. In spite of their resume, people view them as incompetent, especially followers who are younger. You need to know what the current communication preferences are, know the lingo of social networking even if you do not plug into every source, and continuously have a willingness to adopt new forms of technology and communication. Here is why…every day of your life, the number of people younger than you is dramatically growing. They are suspicious to start with and you only enhance their skepticism of your leadership when you are not at least “tech aware.” Unfortunately, your actions, or lack thereof, lead them to interpret you as incompetent. Don’t allow that to happen.

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