When defining a concept, it is often useful to explore its opposites— the things that it is not—in order to reach a conclusion. Negatively defining, as it may be called, applies well to considering the notion of leadership.
Context plays a major role in this process because those characteristics or practices that are considered unsuitable to a leader hinge, in large part, on the environment in which she or he works. The same is true of the positive traits and conventions that identify a strong leader. Certain elements, however, exist independently of the framework. Here are eight mistakes that leaders sometimes make, along with suggestions on how to avoid them.
Giving in to pride
Leadership necessarily puts people in a position to guide others. However, in that role, many individuals place themselves above those they lead in every aspect. Giving in to pride quickly translates to thinking that one is above all else, which includes taking responsibility for when things go wrong. Pride creates a false sense that everything revolves around the leader and is done for his or her benefit. Leaders can never forget that they are people just like their employees.
Listening to negative influences
In addition to delegating, leaders have to take counsel and advice from others in order to get things done. Focusing on or only listening to negative influences is an easy trap for one to fall into, especially for entrepreneurs who have recently started a company and have heard almost nothing other than reasons why their ventures will fail.
With time and experience, leaders will learn to open their net wide when searching for advice, both negative and positive. They can also learn to find value at each end of the advice spectrum. If an idea or opinion has value, whether it be negative or positive, hold on to it. If the point made is worthless, discard it immediately.
Integrity comes in all forms, and every one of them is essential for a leader. Mistakes can range from not adhering to ethics policies in the workplace to failing to take responsibility for missing a self-imposed deadline. Leaders should set and uphold standards for the environments in which they lead, whatever those standards may be. Integrity is a powerful metric for every decision that a leader makes.
In any setting, leaders face a continual onslaught of distractions: last-minute meetings, urgent requests from employees, and more. The distractions appear important at face value because of the of the urgency with which people present them, but prioritizing the unnecessary always leaves the necessary set aside and often undone. By evaluating these demands in the moment and eliminating distractions, leaders can more easily devote time and energy to those things that really matter in the long run.
Bypassing the fundamentals
Letting basic tasks fall by the wayside is a mistake that many leaders commit. The remedy, which is found in daily planning, is a simple one: if you can do something, then do it and don’t ignore it. Apart from that simple formula, leaders can create further their efficiency by finding people who can do those things outside of their skill set. That is, leaders are not expected to know how to do everything, but they need to be able to identify those who can best contribute.
This item is connected to the last one, but it is listed separately because it starts with the interviewing process. When leaders vet potential candidates for a position, regardless of how formally they go about that process, they need to take stock of the skills and aptitudes of the people they bring on.
Leaders can find success by keeping a close eye on people in the early stages, as they will have a better idea of whom to trust when they need the job done right. Knowing your people well is a simple antidote for carless and inefficient delegation.
A lot of PR staff members create strategies for leaders to address the public or the company in a way that answers questions without actually delivering the truth. Once again, integrity comes into play.
The best way to address this mistake is to establish and hold true to standards from the beginning, so that you can confidently tell the truth, even if it may be inconvenient. While no company or enterprise is perfect, sticking to the truth and maintaining a strong level of transparency will help you to gain and keep trust during the harder times.
Failing to share credit
Pride is at the top and bottom of this list. One of the top ways that arrogance creeps into the minds of leaders is when they feel as though becoming successful is all up to them. Strong leaders will find ways to recognize how each employee contributed to helping the team reach the end goal.