1. Trying to Lead Everyone the Same Way
It’s amazing how much time leaders and managers spend thinking about initiatives and promotions and how little we spend learning to understand temperaments and what motivates the different kinds of people on our teams. A leader who does not study temperament theory will not be able to lead a broad group of diverse people successfully. They will assume that the people in their organization or department are motivated by the same things that they are. This will be the lid on their leadership potential.
2. Believing that They are a “Finished Product”
The best leaders are learning leaders. They are observers and students of leadership. Show me a leader who thinks he or she has nothing to learn, and I will show you someone who will be obsolete in a matter of a few years. The work-in-progress leader is an attractive leader who will gather skills, insights and followers very quickly.
3. Confusing Manipulation with Leadership
A lot of the “leadership” executed by non-developed leaders is actually just some form of manipulation. Light manipulation can be used successfully and honestly by a leader who understands that it’s a short-term strategy, but it can’t take the place of a real purpose or mission for your team. Developed leaders can discern what their teams need and when they need it. They make strategic decisions that will not put their credibility or long-term goals at risk.
4. Trying to Lead by Consensus
Top leaders know when a situation calls for a consensus or when a simple decision from the leader is needed. Decisions made by consensus are often just the average of all the opinions, and not necessarily the best opinion. Consensus-driven decisions can also lack true ownership and often projects lack accountability and clear expectations. Some decisions can be made by the group, but in the end… most important strategic decisions need to be made by the leader.
5. Forgetting that Leadership is Not a Talent
Effective leadership is a skill and a craft. It can be learned only through a unique combination of study and experience. When people describe a “talented” leader or a “born leader”, they’re either underestimating the leader’s hard work or they’re just describing the leader’s charisma. Charisma is to leadership what a fresh paint job would be to a car. It can make for a more appealing presentation, but the actual performance will come from some deeper, more powerful place.
6. Not Understanding that Leadership is Simply a Type of Influence
When you boil down everything a leader can do to succeed with a team, you end up with one word: influence. Exceptional leaders influence decisions, enthusiasm, actions, possibilities, confidence, beliefs, direction, and culture. Influence is what an exceptional leader does, and it shows up in myriad ways. The tactics can and will change; the definition will not.
So those are the six mistakes that bad managers make most… and that exceptional leaders avoid. How are you doing with them? Remember, progressive leaders must approach leadership as a craft. It is a profession that requires ongoing learning and development on the part of the leader.
Can you think of any other common mistakes that poor leaders make? Please feel free to share them in the comments!