by Steve Adubato, PhD

Over the past few weeks, I have written about some of the traits of great leaders during turbulent times. It’s important to also understand that real leadership involves learning from your mistakes. But what ARE the most common leadership and communication mistakes we make and what can we learn in the process?

Consider the following list:

--Taking too long to get people off the “bus”. Last week, I referred to Jim Collins’ classic book, “Good to Great”, in which he compares an organization to a bus with the right people sitting in the right seats. Often as leaders we take too long to act, even when we know that certain team members just aren’t cutting it and don’t belong on the team bus. For example, how long will the NY Jets stick with Mark Sanchez as their quarterback? At some point, the responsibility lies with coach Rex Ryan, as the team leader, who is in charge of such decisions. We fail as leaders when we are reluctant to act, knowing that certain employees are mediocre at best and are dragging down the team. If that is you, do something about it NOW, before it’s too late and it begins to take your bus way off course.

--Being too laid back and “hands off”. Of course we want to delegate specific tasks and functions. But some managers and leaders become so far removed from the way their team operates 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. Further, this laissez-faire style communicates a lack of passion or interest in the team and its future, even if that is not your intent. A dangerous approach indeed.

--Obsessive micromanaging. No, this is not a contradiction to the previous leadership mistake because if you don’t delegate ANY tasks or responsibilities, a leader runs the obvious risk of filling his or her plate with so much minutia that it becomes impossible to see the bigger picture. This leader will have a difficult time making strategic decisions that require seeing the forest from the trees. Further, by not delegating and creating other leaders on the team, these managers communicate the message that they don’t trust other team members and therefore, demotivate employees, thereby reducing productivity, effectiveness and morale.

--Surrounding yourself with “yes” players. A major leadership mistake is to insist 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 person in charge. Such a mindset confuses challenging on the part of team members with the message that the leader in question is somehow unfit to lead the team, when in fact the REAL message is that a particular team member simply disagrees on a particular point. One of the worst aspects of this leadership failure is that many who fall into this trap are blind to it and therefore are unable to do anything about it.