Confidence, organization, and people skills are essential for great leadership, but they mean very little if you don’t know how to assert yourself. Assertiveness is a crucial trait for leaders in both Fortune 500 companies and startups as long as it’s applied correctly.
Are you a passive leader?
Passivity is the opposite of assertiveness. Before you can learn how to be more assertive, you need to identify whether your leadership style tends to be passive.
“Passive behavior is what causes you to sacrifice your own needs and preferences in an effort to help others meet their needs and preferences,” according to an article from the property managers at Green Residential.
“While this may simply be characterized as selflessness in many situations, it becomes an issue when it’s a chronic aspect of your life. Just as there are times when it’s totally healthy to be passive, there are other moments when you need to pursue your own best interests.”
It’s good to be understanding and flexible as a leader, but you mustn’t let people tread on you. You might be a passive leader if you exhibit any of the following traits:
- You hesitate or apologize often when you speak
- You purposely avoid confrontations at all costs, even if it means losing money
- You easily blame yourself if something goes wrong, even if it’s not your or your team’s fault
- You make bold claims without anything to back them up
- You rely almost solely on the insights of others when you make decisions
If you recognize some of these traits, you need to learn the art of being more assertive.
What does it meant to be productively assertive?
Your management style will set the tone for the entire team. If you want excellent results, assertiveness will make it clear you’re the leader. But you don’t want to be the wrong kind of assertive.
Assertiveness often has the connotation of being pushy, annoying, or rude. This isn’t what you should aim for, because you don’t want to lose your team’s respect. To reach the proper balance, focus on being productively assertive.
Being productively assertive is much different from merely being aggressive. When you’re productively assertive, you’re forthright with your needs and requests while also considering what others need.
You’re focused on the main goal of your company and help others to maintain productivity and quality workmanship. You make expectations clear, but you are flexible and recognize that you won’t always get everything you ask for.
When you’re aggressive, you’re focused entirely on winning. You don’t necessarily consider the best interests, feelings, needs, or rights of others. You take without regard for others — usually without asking.
Aggressiveness inspires fear in employees. Subordinates do things for you because they’re scared or intimidated, not because they want to work with you toward a greater goal.
Assertiveness inspires respect and teamwork. Your leadership and expectations are perfectly clear, but team members know you’ll hear their viewpoints and consider reasonable adjustments.
How do you develop productive assertiveness?
Passivity may be your leadership style now, but you can learn to be more assertive. It’s called assertiveness training, and it can help you be a healthier, happier person, as well as a stronger leader.
“Being assertive means being able to stand up for your own or other people’s rights in a calm and positive way, without being either aggressive, or passively accepting ‘wrong’,” says an article in Skills You Need. “Assertive individuals are able to get their point across without upsetting others, or becoming upset themselves.”
The article goes on to explain that assertiveness can be learned if you practice some of the following activities:
- Recognize your rights and desires without putting them at a higher priority level than your team’s or your company’s.
- Stop apologizing.
- Ask for your needs and expectations to be satisfied, especially those that align with company goals.
- Give credit where credit is due, and don’t take the fall for everything.
- Learn to accept compliments when they’re given and receive feedback positively.
- Say no when you need to.
Don’t let your leadership be challenged because you can’t stand up for yourself. Assertive leadership is within your reach if you’re willing to put forth the effort and learn the necessary behaviors.
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Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur, Social Media Week, CEOWORLD Magazine and the HuffingtonPost among others.
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