F9lorin Lungu - How people-pleasing and fear of rejection hurt my leadership and 5 tips to avoid making the same costly mistakes

As a young leader, all I wanted was my team’s “buy-in.”

I was so eager to be in my first leadership role! All I wanted was for each member of my team to get on board with my vision. 

I put all of my energy into getting their approval. Whatever was in my power to do for them, I would do. I went as far above and beyond for them as I could – I bent over backward so that they would let me lead them.

If someone on my team was unhappy, I saw it as a personal failure. I would get anxious and wonder, What am I not doing for them that I could be? 

Now let me be clear – asking what is in your power to do for someone else is not a bad mindset to have. But I was truly desperate… and not just for them to be better, but for them to like me – for them to buy into my vision. Or rather, I was desperate for them not to reject me.

Back then, I did not know that there are different kinds of leaders, and that I was a people-oriented leader.

I didn’t know that many people-oriented leaders can fall into this people-pleasing trap. I didn’t know that it is easy for leaders with relational leadership styles to become so focused on creating a welcoming environment that they forget that leadership is about more than making people feel welcome…

It is guiding people toward their best. That does involve making them feel safe, but that safety is to be leveraged for their growth.

It involves making decisions that are in the best interest of the organization that not everyone may like. It involves challenging the team, and sometimes, confronting them with difficult truths. There is a difference between support and people-pleasing.

Back then, I didn’t know how much I didn’t know!

Do you know what kind of leader you are? Or, more important, do you know how to counterbalance your leadership style to strike the right chord with your team? If you’re not sure, here’s a free leadership assessment you can take to get that clarity.

If you do know you struggle with people-pleasing leadership, here are a few tips for making the shift…

  1. Reevaluate your leadership priorities.

When I was leading for the first time, my first thought was, “What’s best for me?” and then, because I wanted the approval of others, my next thought was, “What do others want?”

Those are some skewed leadership priorities!

I’ve since learned that, as a leader, I am first and foremost obligated to the organization I serve (within reason). Then, I am to ask, “What is best for the others within the organization?” Then, I should take myself into account.

2. Value others and yourself equally.

You may have a hard time valuing others if you do not value yourself. But we must also recognize that others are every bit as valuable as we are. As leaders, we are not to discount or overvalue ourselves.

3. Communicate expectations up front.

Clear job descriptions and candid hiring conversations eliminate a lot of awkward situations on the back end. Communicate at the start what you expect from those you are bringing onto the team.

4. Answer the difficult questions before they are asked. 

Not long ago, my wife and I welcomed our first child into the world. (His name is Adam and he is too precious for words!)

As we were preparing for his birth, my wife and I discussed her labor. We had to ask ourselves some daunting questions. But to me, the answers were always clear, and I even surprised her with how quickly I responded.

It was simple. I had figured out what was important to me in advance so that when the time came to answer – and then, if necessary, to act – it would be that simple.

5. When you must have a tough conversation, do it the right way. 

These conversations are tough because, so often, we feel we are making judgment statements about the person in front of us. But people are not their actions, and they have reasons for acting the way they do.

Separate the person from their behavior and the situation. Be clear about what you are addressing and ask them to give you their perspective – not to explain themselves. Restate their position in your own terms. Make efforts to understand them and ensure they know you understand them.

That’s all for now,


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