There are many books written by people who have a theoretical understanding of leadership. They write about characteristics and ideologies that sound like common sense. Yet, putting those abstract ideas into practice is almost never as easy as it sounds. After decades of leading organizations and advising CEOs, I have seen leaders struggle to produce great results through others. In some cases, they attempt to overcome the struggle with short cuts. While some of those short cuts can give the appearance of control, they often backfire. Here are four common errors that cansabotage any leader’s effort.
Spread rumors/Gossip: If you’re the CEO, your employees will usually find a reason to gossip about issues that are not based on facts. That gossip becomes a rumor that can shape corporate culture and performance. If the leader is the originator of rumors, the enterprise will soon become infested with rumors. In fact, if the CEO is the originator, it could create factions amongst staff and management. It will create people who are privy to the leaders rumors and people who are not – favorites against the rest. In some cases, employees will spend more time talking and worrying about rumors, instead of being productive. More importantly, the leader who spreads rumors can erode the trust people have in him.
Micromanage: Leaders who micromanage send a daunting message to their direct reports; I don’t trust you. If you hired people because you believe they have the skills and experience to do their job, except, you constantly watch over them and tell them how to do their job, you are indirectly telling them they are incompetent without your input. Over time, they will resent you. High performers will leave. Others will get back at you by not being fully committed to their job. They will do the minimum required and wait for you to tell them to do the rest. Micromanagement also impedes an employee’s growth and ability to make tough decisions. As a result, the CEO becomes frustrated with employees and will have to constantly replace them as business grows. It will always appear as though the company has outgrown his people. Development comes as a result of allowing people to do their job, which includes learning from challenges and mistakes.
Lie: While lying has obvious consequences, doing so will make it difficult to manage people. You can become the boy who cried wolf. If the leader who lies has a sense of urgency, no one will take him seriously. Not only will his authority be undermined, employees will miss deadlines because they will not trust there is a sense of urgency. Furthermore, lying may become part of company culture. It is difficult to produce great results when there is no integrity. Perhaps worst of all is that lying can be a form of manipulation. Many people become resentful when you manipulate them. It’s better to be honest, even if the truth is very uncomfortable.
Complain: A CEO who complains may send an unwanted message to staff and management. People may believe she does not know what she is doing as a leader. Some people may abandon ship. Losing talent increases pressure on the CEO to have all the answers. While it is true that no one has all the answers, CEOs are often expected to have them. If they complain, they could sound like a helpless victim. With that said, some of her direct reports may smell fear and start pursuing the CEO’s job. If a direct report wants the CEO’s job, he may conceal important information from her or provide inaccurate intelligence with the hope the CEO will make huge mistakes. Furthermore, it creates a culture of complaints. It encourages people to complain without providing solutions.
The debate over leaders being born or made is a wasted conversation. Like any other profession, those who practice leading tend to be the best at it. Without practice, you may hold the title. However, you may not empower your people to be better than they could have without you. If you haven’t made your people better, you may be engaged in some of the above habits, unknowingly. A great coach can help you distinguish and undo them. If you’re not a leader and you want the title, it would be wise to seek opportunities to lead others as often as possible – practice.
Perhaps the most effective leaders are the ones who listen best. They listen to ideas of some of the most brilliant and ambitious people and then create collaboration in such a way that the sum is significantly greater than the parts.
What do you think? I would love to hear your feedback. And I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know.