From time to time, we all get sage advice on the things good leaders should do or characteristics you should have. Sometimes we are even afforded opportunities to attend formalized management development courses and programs to help learn effective leadership. But eventually, we come to the list of things to avoid or “pitfalls” that are inherently problematic. Here are my top seven things good leaders should avoid.
Being in (or remaining in) your leadership position for your own glory. Remember it was Lord John Action who said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. I mentioned this in one of my earlier articles referring to people who choose leadership roles for the wrong reasons. In order to avoid this pitfall I always suggest to my students that they develop a list of “truth tellers” who are not afraid to speak up and keep them honest. Surrounding yourself with “yes” people is very problematic because they tend to only watching out for themselves. Don’t be a naked emperor!
Trying to accomplish all the goals of the organization by yourself
If you think you can accomplish everything yourself you’re crazy! As a leaders you have to be able to trust and depend upon those with whom you work. A former employer of mine had a saying, “If you have a person in your organization that is so important and that nothing can get done without them – kill them and kill them now!” That may be shocking at first to hear but think about what his meaning is. Sooner or later this lack of depth will come to haunt the organization and it usually shows up at the worst possible time. You want to deal with it on your own terms. Develop that depth in your organization now and start with yourself.
The inability to accept diversity cannot only kill your ability to lead but can kill your agency. I am not specifically talking about the usual bench marks that are associated with diversity. This has as much to do with personality, work habits, life experiences, and outside interests as it does ethnic backgrounds. As leaders we cannot afford to only surround ourselves with people who, we believe, think like we do or have the same interests or character traits. Some shared values are necessary for efficient operation of an agency like showing up on time and diligently working at their job, but others really have nothing to do with the efficient accomplishment of job tasks or organizational goals. So you like chocolate and they like strawberry… big deal! Get over it.
Assume you’re the only intelligent person in the organization
Or you believe that some people on your team are better than others. Often this goes hand in glove to the previous pitfall of cloning yourself. Involve all of your organization members in the organizational functions and avoid handing all of the projects to a select few. As tempting as it is, because these select few are deemed reliable, you might be missing the input from the other employees and their contributions. Bright people will seek places where they can feel fulfilled and do their best work. If that is not your agency they will find another.
Trying to satisfy all of the people all of the time
You cannot satisfy everyone – need I say more? Come to the realization that no matter what decision you make there is likely one person who won’t agree with it. Trying to satisfy everyone can actually morph you into being indecisive and unable to make a decision. No competent follower wants to work for that kind of leader.
Ignoring your personal and professional needs
Pay attention to your stress indicators and make sure you stay active. Physical exercise still remains one of the best countermeasures to the physiological effects of stress. Read about Dr. Henry Thompson’s research on Catastrophic Leadership FailureTM to look at the correlation between stress and decision making. Make sure you continue to develop and update your leadership skills and knowledge any chance you get. Read, research, or attend seminars to continually develop your leadership abilities. Your followers deserve to have a contemporary leader who continually strives to acquire and utilize new tools and skills.
Keeping your position forever
Don’t allow yourself to be controlled by the fear of losing your leadership position. That fear just results in keeping other people down and preventing growth opportunities. Look at your position as being “on-loan” to you. Take care of it and leave it better than you found it which means developing your followers to take your place. Finally, leave your leadership position at the right time for the right cause. The best time to move on is when the ship is upright, gracefully moving through the water with full sail, and all hands are doing their jobs. Leave a legacy that you can be proud of.