Put Away the Poker Face

Have you ever worked with someone who always left you wondering, “I wonder what he’s thinking?”

Approachability is an essential leadership trait, and if your teammates can’t read you, they aren’t sure how to approach you. Some leaders use their stoicism as a guard, while others aren’t even aware that their subtle actions (or inactions) make their teammates think twice about approaching them.

Here are some examples of ways you might be keeping your colleagues from connecting with you:

Poker Face

I’ve talked about the dangers of showing every emotion and the occasional need to mask up. There is, however, an opposite extreme to the emotional roller coaster ride, and that’s a leader who reveals little to no emotion or passion about anything. When you don’t show any emotions or share your thoughts with your team, they’re left wondering what you think – about their work and about them. When leaders are stoic, they leave their followers in stand-still mode because they aren’t sure which direction to move.

Reluctance to Connect

I’ve heard the philosophy of some leaders that they come to work to do just that – work. They don’t need to waste precious production time befriending their teammates. And while I understand that pragmatic perspective (we don’t have to be friends with all of our teammates, and personal drama – in most cases – should be checked at the office door), if you don’t connect with the person, you’ll never lead beyond your title. That is to say that your people will never follow you for who you are; they’ll only follow you because of the authority granted to you by your position.

Hesitance to Commit

Sometimes new leaders fall into this trap: they don’t want to make the wrong decision, so they resist committing. They are wishy washy in their guidance and vague in their opinions. Their employees seek them for direction, and they walk away without any clarity. Non-committal leaders frustrate their followers and cause top leaders to question the individual’s commitment to the organization.

While we might think that our stoicism and lack of commitment provides a safeguard, it’s really just a false sense of security. Leaders are better off being a bit too emotional, too caring, or too passionate in their stance than playing it too safe and always leaving their teammates guessing as to where they stand.

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