By Steve Moran 

I find myself thinking I need a new series that is titled “Leadership Is Hard.” And it is, but it is at the same time simple, and perhaps that is what makes it hard. One of the things that makes it so hard is that sometimes, more often than you would believe, you will be MISUNDERSTOOD.

And often you will be misunderstood after you have done everything possible to keep that from happening.

Why It Happens

There are six reasons why leaders are misunderstood:

  1. What is obvious to the leader is not obvious to team members. I find this a personal pain point, particularly when someone new joins the team. I assume they know things about how the organization works and how I work when they have no idea. In particular, when I bring on a new team member, I want them to go do their job — to figure out what needs to be done and do it. They don’t need to wait for me to tell them what to do. It turns out this is not true in most organizations, and so they get frustrated with me for not giving more directions and assume that I don’t like them or don’t trust them, when the exact opposite is true. (My team will be nodding their heads as they read this.)
  2. People will interpret what you say and do differently than you intended it. This is impossible to avoid, and you need to plan for it, without freaking out. It means you will have to clarify and clarify. It also means you must check with your people to make sure they understood your intent.
  3. People are naturally afraid of you. It is beyond my comprehension that anyone would be afraid of me or intimidated by me, especially my team. But I have learned that when I call a team member (or send a message) saying, “Give me a call when you get a chance,” the instinctual reaction will be, “Oh no, I am in trouble, or there is a problem (that is my fault).” It is why I always try to leave a reason why I want them to call.
  4. There are cultural and generational differences. A diverse workforce makes every single entity better and stronger. There is a ton of data that supports this, but it does not mean it is without its own complexities. It is just that those complexities are worth it. When you are aware of these differences, it will make a huge difference.
  5. Your team does not want to hear it (preconceived notions). Sometimes you are thinking one thing, and your team is thinking something else, and they completely miss what you are saying. You can get mad, or you can go back and clarify … as many times as you need to.
  6. Your team doesn’t respect you. I am kind of assuming that if you are reading this article, you likely don’t fall into this category, except that no matter how good a leader you are, you likely have at least one person who is not a fan of yours. (You know, that person you really need to fire.) They will always assume ill intent no matter what you say.

Would you add other items to this list?