It’s small, but mighty.
If ignored, it gets worse.
It can cause us to limp, stumble, and ultimately fail.
What is it?
It’s our “Achilles’ heel.”
We have weaknesses. Some weaknesses, such as dishonesty, aggressiveness, or blatant disrespectfulness, are glaring. Others, though not as obvious, can be just as debilitating to a leader and their team. Anyone who has torn or strained their Achilles tendon knows that it is never quite the same after the injury. Activities that were previously executed easily and with certainty are no longer possible. Some maneuvers, though still possible, are accompanied by a noticeable limp. The same is true of seemingly “small” leadership shortcomings. If unaddressed, these faults can greatly hamper our ability to lead and cause serious team dysfunction.
Seven Common Small But Mighty “Achilles’ Heels”
- POOR HIRING DECISIONS – “WE FOUND THE PERFECT JERK!”
- Hiring candidates based solely on their skills and experience without considering the candidates’ personality, attitude, values, and organizational fit
- Providing orientation training that focuses on organizational tasks and goals, but does not allow new hires to define their personal goals, get know their colleagues better, and learn about organizational philosophy, culture, history, etc.
- INAPPROPRIATE CONFLICT RESOLUTION – “EVERYONE STAYS INSIDE AT RECESS!”
- Punishing the whole group instead of confronting the individual that is off track or involved in a disagreement
- Implementing a blanket “new policy” that penalizes the entire organization, division, or team instead of correcting the person or small group that is responsible for the mistake
- UNCLEAR PLANS AND INSTRUCTIONS – “PLAYING ‘MOTHER MAY I?’ AND ‘RED LIGHT GREEN LIGHT’ WITH STAFF MEMBERS”
- Communicating unclear expectations or goals, making decisions “by the seat of ones pants,” communicating sporadically or not at all
- Changing the plan, direction, and instructions unpredictably (Green light! Red light!) This stifles team creativity and problem solving, and causes team members to feel like they need to ask for permission before acting (“Mother, May I?”) or inadvertently waste time working on the wrong project or priority
- NOT LISTENING – “ALL MOUTH & NO EARS”
- Seeking to be understood, but not to understand. See Stephen Covey’s Habit #5 https://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits-habit5.php
- Interrupting others and dominating conversations
- Failing to ask questions because he or she is too busy expressing their own opinion or adding their own “two cents”
- DISENGAGEMENT – “LOCKED IN THE IVORY TOWER”
- Believing in “serve me” leadership instead of “servant” leadership
- Feeling as though one is above spending time “in the trenches” to find out what is really happening on the front lines
- Making decisions “from the ivory tower” that affect those “on the ground” without consultation, or an attempt to understand “ground level” needs
- Assuming ones own point of view is the correct or only point of view
- UNGRATEFUL – “NEVER MISS AN OPPORTUNITY TO MISS AN OPPORTUNITY”
- Continually missing opportunities to say thank you to staff members during meetings or departmental functions
- Believing “your paycheck is your thank you,” and rarely giving awards or recognition out of fear employees will get “big heads” or become “lazy”
- Failing to publicly give credit to the person for their achievement, idea or project while that person is in the room
- FAILING TO INTERACT – “ALONE ON THE ISLAND”
- Being “too busy” with meetings, reports, and paperwork to listen, confront, praise, mentor, coach, and/or challenge staff members
- Failing to spend time with people in other divisions, departments, or agencies because he or she is “too busy” or has “been to enough company potlucks”
While some leaders acknowledge their weaknesses and work to improve them, others turn a blind eye even after being confronted and still others seem to cling to their weaknesses with pride! (“What can I say? That’s just how I was raised!”) These leaders fail to realize that their small but mighty “Achilles’ heel” is keeping them from being the best leader they can be and may be causing lackluster team motivation and conflict.
To heal our Achilles’ heels, we must first recognize the “limp” in our leadership style. Consider asking a trusted colleague to point out one of your weaknesses, and then take steps to improve it no matter how small it may seem. It’s not just our glaring shortcomings that cause us trouble; it’s also our small but mighty Achilles’ heels that trip us up and put our teams out of commission.
Wondering where the term “Achilles’ heel” comes from? Check it out by clicking here.
Hope Horner is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.
Smart. Smart. Smart. Terrific post, and relevant at ALL levels of leadership.
Good list. I would say that many of the items here are when someone confuses management with leadership. Management is just keeping things in line and on task. Leadership is dealing with people. Until one realizes that leadership has little to do with management, they will continue to think they are being effective because they got project X done on time. They will fail to see that they have now less resources available to tackle project Y. Managers consume resources to finish projects, leaders only borrow resources.
Great list. I would add “majoring in the minors” instead of producing results and adding value.
This was a great article! I especially enjoyed the link that explains the origin of the term. It really adds perspective to the idea that we all may have a small area of weakness that could potentially lead to our downfall if we’re not careful.