By Steve Moran
Leadership is awesome, scary, and frustrating. I have talked to so many leaders who love being leaders except for the people they lead. This is the crux of the problem for leaders: They lead people, and each one of those team members and customers sees things differently than the leader and their fellow team members.
They have their own ideas, their own baggage, their own personal needs and goals. Leading well is all about focusing on some common goals while at the same time creating an environment that allows those being led to live the lives they want to live.
Part of this leadership equation is that you have the right, more or less, to do whatever you want to do with few short-term consequences; though the long-term consequences can be profoundly bad. Just because you can make those decisions does not mean you should make them.
I hope you look at this list and say to each of them, “Nope, I don’t do that.” And if you can’t, maybe they need some rethinking.
1. Making Every Major Decision
There is no doubt a set of major decisions that only the top leader can and should make. But way too often leaders get too involved in decisions that they should be silent on — decisions that don’t really impact them as a leader but have a profound impact on their team members.
As a “for instance,” too many times a technology will be forced on team members and it does not serve them well.
2. Being the Public Face of Everything
Recently a leader was telling me a story about an issue in their organization that needed to be publicly addressed. The leader was on a backpacking trip for 10 days and completely off the grid.
This issue went unaddressed because not a single person felt empowered to speak up and speak out. They were all convinced that if they said anything there would be a price to pay in terms of the leader being mad.
3. Not Hearing
Most modern organizations say they love feedback from team members and customers (residents); they have mechanisms of taking input. But it is much rarer for organizations to actually hear feedback. Hearing means taking it seriously, being willing to accept that doing things the way things are currently done is not good enough and that your team members and your customers are on your side and have your back.
4. Challenging Every Challenge
I have talked to so many people who have great ideas to make their organization better, and they refuse to even make the suggestion. The reason they keep silent is that they know every new idea will be challenged by their leaders. That while it might be possible to make the idea happen, it will be a fight, and the fight is not worth it.
A version of this: A number of years ago a new grad approached a leader he really admired about a job. After some conversation, the leader was interested enough to ask the new grad how much money he would need to make. The hopeful student offered up a number that was not unreasonable but higher than what the leader expected.
The immediate response was, “Sorry, we are not interested. We never start at a rate that high.” That young person went someplace else, to the detriment of that leader’s company.
5. Overlooking Work-Life Balance
Too many leaders believe that their team members should work as hard as they themselves do. This is simply wrong. In other cases, leaders expect their team members to work harder than they themselves are willing to work. Both cases shout out to team members ,“I don’t care about you or your family.”
6. Not Giving Credit
This one is puzzling to me. Giving credit to team members for every big and little thing that happens in your organization results in more credit to you. Lifting up your team members will be noticed by other team members, customers, and the public. It will do nothing but make you look good.
Taking all the credit may feel good, but behind your back, people will despise you for it.
I know the list could be longer. What would you add?