Many years ago, when the moon exploration was new, someone asked how many computers, personnel, and other technical items were necessary to monitor space travel. One of the men answered something like this: “More than you can imagine. There are thousands of things that impact the success or failure of this venture. You can’t imagine what could go wrong.”
It’s like that in leadership. It seems there is no end to the ways we can derail our leadership. It is famously said that people don’t leave organizations, they leave leaders. Being a good manager is hard. The first thing that directly impacts your leadership is what you believe. There are a few beliefs that will cause your leadership to crash because leadership always starts from the inside. You can’t afford these beliefs:
Believing that your tenure equals ability. You may have been in your position for a long time, but that doesn’t necessarily qualify you to stay there. Times are changing and changing fast. Leaders who think they know it all and don’t have to learn anything new are on the way out.
Believing you must always be right. No matter how good you are, eventually you’ll be wrong. Insisting you are right will divide your team and erode your own ability to learn new things and move forward with creativity and innovation.
Believing keeping people guessing about job security makes them motivated. This is manipulation, not leadership, and will not serve you well in the long run.
Believing it’s okay to hoard information. People need to know what’s happening around them. When they don’t, confusion and rumors multiply, and morale suffers.
Believing the grass is always greener on the other side. A defeatist attitude can destroy a team, do serious harm to a company, and wipe out any respect the people around you may hold for you.
Thinking mistakes will disqualify you from leading. If you think leaders should never make a mistake, it’s time to rethink. Failures and mistakes can erode your self-confidence, but they can also show you how to achieve something greater than you thought. You need to take risks, make mistakes, and accept your failures as a requirement for doing something worthwhile.
Now let’s look at some of the most common ways leaders act to get off track and ruin their leadership impact, getting in the way of their employees and stopping them from being their most productive, innovative, and positive selves:
Holding unnecessary meetings. Give your employees back their time by choosing your meetings strategically. Go in with a clear plan of what you want to cover during that time and hold everyone to it.
Unclear communication. Give specific details when communicating goals or other work objectives to employees, and encourage them to tell you if they feel unclear.
Giving too much information. Bucket loads at once is generally not assimilated well and decreases motivation and productivity.
Criticizing without praising. Good leaders minimize the damage of mistakes by using them as a way to introduce solutions to help. They never give a criticism without giving an equally public expression of appreciation.
Leading with emotions. Emotions have their place, but bringing too many into the workplace can harm a team. Use emotional and social intelligence to discover why you react the way you do and how to deal appropriately. Managed emotions from you and the team will make you all happier and more productive.
Responding too little and too late. When someone asks a question or makes a request, don’t ignore it until you have time to answer. If you can’t answer quickly, let them know that you’ve seen their message and let them know when you’ll send a response.
Attempting to control everything. Preventing team members from owning their work stifles their productivity and abilities and reduces their ability to be creative.
Being indecisive. When you try to consider every option before making a decision, you get paralyzed and often miss your window. Your team looks to you for guidance, and that means making a lot of decisions every day. The team can’t move on without you. If you make a wrong decision, you can pivot, but sitting still gets you nowhere.
Constantly innovating. A leader who jumps on every new idea and changes their team’s priorities rapidly can be a problem. Employees will start to question your competency, vision, and resource management. They’ll also feel very insecure about their jobs and the future of the company.
Failing to listen to the team. It is imperative that you pay attention to the issues, concerns, successes, and challenges of each of your team members. Good leaders know what’s going on. They take time to listen when someone needs mentoring, and go to bat for them whenever necessary. Failing to listen will result in frustrated team members who lose faith in their leader and their organization.
Failing to embrace the talents and acknowledge the work of those you lead. Everyone has a unique gift to bring. Acknowledging and utilizing their gifts and then applauding the work they do builds motivation and loyalty. Failure to do so will drive down both performance and loyalty.
Being a spin doctor. Your team needs straight answers. If you are unwilling to give straight answers, you are withholding valuable information and communicating mistrust. Good leaders answer directly and are not afraid of communicating positive or negative information to their team members.
Acting like a protective bouncer. Shutting off information flow from anyone but you, denying them access to the whole organization, keeps the team behind the white line. Exposing them to the entire organization and letting everyone see their great gifts and abilities is an honor which builds morale.
Holding grudges against those you lead. Conflicts can easily turn into grudges. If you are not able to grow a thick skin, if you take things too seriously, you have no business leading. Good leaders welcome feedback. Great leaders know the importance of giving everyone a voice. Organizations run at their best when everyone holds one another accountable.
Bullying those you lead. Leading by pushing people around never works. You want to be known for your kindness.
Don’t derail yourself as a leader. Emotionally intelligent leaders look for their own issues and struggles and fix them.