Like it or not, there are times we are in charge. There are times we are all leaders – as a parent, in the classroom, through work, in a club, on a sports team or in a volunteer organization. And we can always become better leaders. Here are ten common leadership blunders better leaders avoid.
- Some leaders are blind to the current situation. They solve the wrong problems in the wrong way. They bandage an infected thumb but do not pull the splinter. Better leaders work hard to understand the real problem before responding.
Some leaders discourage those they lead. They find fault and blame. They criticize when things don’t go right. Better leaders encourage. They give credit when things go well and take responsibility for problems.
Alabama football coach “Bear” Bryant was once asked how he inspired his players. He responded, “Well, I’m just an old plow hand from Arkansas, but I’ve learned a few things about getting people to do what you want them to do. When things go wrong, I did it. When things go semi-good, we did it. And when things go good, you did it. That’s all it takes to hold a team together….”
- Some leaders believe they have all the answers they need. Better leaders keep learning. A cross-discipline study of leadership indicated that effective leaders in all fields are always learning. They understand that a spurt here and a spurt there does not make an expert.
Some leaders shy away from courageous decisions. They prefer to keep things as they are, even if the system is not working all that well. They will almost always follow the well-worn path. Better leaders will often go where there is no path and leave a trail. They trust their instincts and act boldly.
Some leaders keep others in their place. They remind them who is boss. Better leaders know that authority earned trumps authority granted.
A young Army officer found that he did not have the correct change for a soft drink vending machine. Noticing a subordinate nearby, he said, “Private, do you have change for a dollar?” Cheerfully, the man said, “I think so. Here, let me look.” “That is no way to address your superior, soldier!” scolded the officer. “Now, let’s try it again. Private, do you have change for a dollar?” The soldier snapped to attention, saluted and said, “NO, SIR!”
The officer’s authority was granted, but he had yet to earn respect from those he led.
- Some leaders would rather do the work themselves. They are slow to delegate. They micro-manage and control. Better leaders identify strengths and limitations of those they lead. They assign, train, encourage and then get out of the way.
Some leaders sabotage the successes of others. When those below them succeed, they feel threatened. Better leaders help their subordinates find success. They give a hand up. They realize that when one is lifted onto another’s shoulders, both stand taller.
Some leaders ask others to do what they are not willing to do themselves, and try to get others to go places they have not been. Better leaders always lead by example. They get out in front and lead, they don’t push from behind.
Some leaders motivate by force. They cajole, intimidate, threaten and issue ultimatums. Better leaders understand that people respond best to positive incentive. They build morale.
Some leaders do not listen well to those they lead. Their minds are already made up and they charge recklessly ahead. Better leaders listen closely to those they want to influence.
U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk once said, “One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears — by listening to them.” Great salespeople know this. Great motivators know this. Great leaders know this.
Maybe you’ve seen the boss’ job and you don’t want it, but we are all in charge at times. Be a better leader and you will help build a better world.
— Steve Goodier