By Steve Adubato, PhD
All leaders make mistakes, but it is a leader’s ability to admit mistakes, and more importantly, learn from them, that matters. Following are a few common leadership mistakes many of us make:
-- Being too “hands off.” Of course we want to delegate specific tasks and functions. But some leaders become so removed from their teams operations that they lose touch. These leaders have little idea about the productivity or effectiveness of team members, and therefore, are in no position to provide coaching or feedback as to how these employees can improve. This laissez-faire style communicates a lack of passion or interest in the team and its future, even if that is not your intent. Great leaders recognize there is a difference between delegating to empower your people and handing off responsibility without any guidance or coaching. A smart way to stay connected is to facilitate engaging regular meetings with your key team players so you know what’s happening in your organization and your employees know you’re on top of things.
--Obsessive micromanaging. No, this is not a contradiction to the previous leadership mistake because a leader who does not delegate ANY tasks or responsibilities runs the obvious risk of filling his or her plate with so much minutiae that it becomes impossible to see the forest from the trees. Further, by not effectively delegating and creating other leaders on the team, these micromanaging leaders communicate the message that they don’t trust other team members which demotivates employees, thereby reducing productivity, effectiveness and morale. If you find yourself stuck “in the weeds,” take a step back and identify two tasks to delegate to your best team members. As you see that your team can successfully manage those projects, you will be more inclined to delegate other projects that don’t need your immediate supervision. Your team will grow and you will have more time to focus strategically on the bigger picture. PS – Never confuse delegating with dumping work on others without coaching and direction.
--Surrounding yourself with “yes” players. A major leadership mistake is to create a culture where those around you tell you that you are right, even if you propose a terrible idea or initiative. Weak leaders communicate the message that team members are acting “disloyal” or “out of bounds” when they challenge or ask questions of the team leader. When this happens, organizations plow ahead in the wrong direction, taking the bus off course just because no one was willing or able to challenge the leader’s poor judgment or decision making. One of the biggest reasons for this leadership failure is the insecurity and lack of confidence of the leader. These leaders incorrectly assume that any challenge to their leadership sends the message that they are somehow unfit to lead the team, when in fact the REAL message is that a particular team member simply disagrees on a particular point. Many who fall into this trap are blind to all this and therefore are unable to do anything about it. The next time you propose an idea, see how many of your team members challenge it. And if no one does, directly ask team members to share a different point of view. Over time, they’ll see that their opinion is valued and will offer it up more often.
Mayor Steven Fulop, Jersey City, shares his most significant leadership lesson about the importance of acknowledging your mistakes.