The Worst Mistakes Even Great Leaders Make
Despite your current career success level or your mountain of past achievements, mistakes are inevitable. Generally, as leaders we do not fear mistakes. We take risks, understand the importance of trial and error, and we are masters at turning mistakes into learning experiences. But what about the mistakes and bad habits we have that fly under the radar and are welcomed in to our everyday lives because we do not recognize them as mistakes? Some mistakes do not directly impact our bottom line or the goals we seek to reach. Nonetheless, any habit that knocks us off of our A-game or threatens our efficiency as leaders, immediately or long term is a habit worth identifying and confronting. The most common leadership mistakes are:
1. Doing Unnecessary Work
Leaders are usually great at delegating but easily slip into the habit of undoing their team members work by adding their own expertise, tweaking, or completely overhauling the assigned project. It’s that old adage,
“If I want something done right, I will do it myself”
saying that is a real enemy to effective leadership. This causes two issues:
You rob your colleague of a learning experience and a chance to demonstrate their value; and
You add a task to your plate and take your attention away from other pressing matters that do require your attention.
If you keep falling into the trap of completing presentations, proposals, budgeting, or whatever tasks belong to someone else, re-evaluate your trust. As leaders, we grow, serve, and help other leaders, we do not and must not micromanage other leaders. We must ask ourselves: Does this person no longer meet my expectations? Or, does the team describe them as a weak link? If your subordinate or colleague has dropped the ball, the answer is not to micromanage or cover their slack, the answer is to either coach up the individual or refill the position with someone of a higher quality. And, if you are enthusiastic about the value and work being submitted, step back and let them shine. Yes, LET THEM SHINE! True leaders know that our job is to bring out the best in others, so the organization thrives. As a leader, your job is quality control and review and acceptance of what you have requested to be done versus completion. I have said it a million times and I mean it – leaders get drained because they take on too much and are too busy taking care of everyone but themselves. Unnecessary work will lead to unnecessary distraction and unnecessary stress.
2. You are not being innovative
We’ve all heard, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” While this can be applied to several situations, not broke does not mean it is completely working, especially to the level and degree to which the organization needs it to be. If you subscribe to this flawed belief 100% of the time, this could conceivably lead to your leadership downfall. When you are reaching your revenue goals, clients are happy, and your team is happy, the need for change is not pressing. But, in your comfort and in your willingness to do business as usual, your competitors are working overtime to be innovative and woo your customers. This is in every industry. People have CHOICES! Your product or service may be great, but more than likely it is not timeless, and it is far from perfect. Technology, social media, and the ever-changing needs we as a society have are just a few reasons to never stay stagnant and to evolve. In my book, Deliberate Excellence, I discuss my first meeting as a district leader and seeing the following Jack Welch quote in the conference room:
“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”
That is true! The best approach is always addressing what problem your product solves. If outside factors will always create new problems, you have to remain a creative and critical thinker to create innovate solutions. There will always be countless people who know how to do what you do so your job is to do it differently and do it better! You have to stand out!
3. You need to be liked
Being likable sure doesn’t sound like a bad thing! But, when you hold what others think of you, and how they perceive you at such a high bar, it can and will affect how you lead. Being honest, we all struggle with this. I have struggled with this in my past because I associated valuing my team and business partners with being nice. In reality, smart and talented people don’t need or want a sugar-coating leader; they want directness, a challenge, and they want to grow – Authenticity and honesty. I found out that I can’t grow my team if my number one concern was am I likable and do they view me as a nice leader. Leaders need to be respectful, humble, honest, and yes show empathy, but they also have to be engaging, truthful, coaches, and iron sharpeners. A leader brings out the best in his or her team and that process may cause discomfort, disagreements, and even dislike. I can’t name the number of individuals who were upset with me in the moment of something, but whom now value everything that moment or process provided to them to grow them to where they are today! Replace the goal of simply being liked by your team with the goal of empowering your team to be the best versions of themselves, both professionally and personally.
4. You think your title makes you a leader
The worst leader is the type of leader who has removed himself or herself from the equation and no longer understands the working parts that are necessary to reach the vision. Clearly put, a title does not make you a leader. Any individual who identifies a problem and subsequently works with a team to identify solutions is a leader – not complain about the problem but seek to identify and implement solutions. Leaders understand that leadership is essential, and leaders must lead. Leadership means understanding the big and small picture and everything between. They understand the telescope (big picture) and the microscope (the small picture – the moment). Leaders not only understand the details of what is needed for success but are eager to adequately coach and lead a team to make sure their skill set is ready and on target to fulfill their role. We must never get caught up in clout, bank accounts, or corner offices. A title, nor rewards or benefits defines authentic leadership. Tangibility, productivity, and strong work culture are the markers of a true leader.
There are numerous qualities and habits that can bring a good leader down. You will have to repeatedly evaluate your leadership style to make sure your leadership remains positive and impactful and sustains itself far beyond your current role. Someone else will be there sitting in that seat one day, probably very soon. To remove all biases, 360 assessments, peer reviews, and exit interviews will help you better understand how others view your leadership. Make it a priority to lead on purpose and be aware of your flaws. Correction is always positive. Embrace correction and change so that your leadership is long-term and that your legacy remains intact regardless of how others may want to view you.