I coach a lot of mid and senior level leaders. One of the biggest mistakes they make is misreading their leader. Sally is a very participative, and somewhat passive leader. She works for Ted. Ted has high drive and high levels of intentionality. Ted gets stuff done and expects his direct reports to lead strong, make necessary changes and keep him in the loop (but not wait for him to initiate things). In Ted’s way of thinking, he put Sally in the position to lead and she needs to step up and do it.

When Sally hesitates, Ted gets in her space and begins leading her even stronger. This is where Sally misreads Ted. She thinks at this point–when Ted steps into her space–that she should defer to him and step back. This is turn causes Ted to question Sally’s leadership ability even more.

And, the beat goes on.

Sally’s misread is costing her. Now you could say that Ted could alter his style as well and communicate clearly what he wants from Sally. And, he has. It’s Sally’s misread that is the problem.

So…are you misreading your leader? If you think you might be, then:

1) Ask for clarity

2) Alter your style, at least a bit, in order to speak your leader’s language and delight him or her

3) Consider where you might be sending the wrong signal to your leader based on what is comfortable for you

4) Be yourself, but adapt

5) Communicate and ask your leader to tell you when you are hitting a home run

6) Be engaged in what your leader is looking for–because it matters. If it doesn’t matter to you, it might be time to leave