Humans are imperfect, yes? So it stands to reason that leaders, unless of course they’re not human, are also imperfect. We’ve all got our own version of imperfect too, don’t we? We’re each uniquely imperfect in that we struggle with different things to different degrees.
The crappy part for us as leaders is that our imperfections don’t occur in a vacuum. Since they’re leadership imperfections, they almost always relate to and affect the people we’re privileged to serve and work with.
I hate that.
When we don’t lead as well as we’d like, our teams suffer the consequences. When I make a bad decision, or even a series of bad decisions, it’s not just me that gets dinged. My team also gets drilled. Yours too, right? It’d be nice if we could confine the negative impact of our imperfect–OK, bad–decisions to solely ourselves, but it doesn’t work that way. There’s always collateral damage.
Like, say for example…
2. When leaders get stuck in denial, the issue rarely goes away. It gets worse and often leaves your team holding the bag.
3. When leaders take an unnecessarily long time dealing with issues on the team, fantastic people–because they’re fantastic people–take on extra work to make sure it’s done and done well. We know that’s going to happen from time to time, but it’s not sustainable over the long haul. It also shouldn’t be a crutch. Those fantastic people are humans too; they’re going to get tired, frustrated, or worse. And rightly so.
4. When leaders alienate other departments in the organization through their negative interactions with them, it poisons the well, so to speak. It makes it more difficult for teams to work with other groups if those other groups dread working for anybody associated with the leaders of those respective teams.
5. When leaders don’t listen to what their team is saying, they miss critical information. They don’t get input. And it’s not like the team doesn’t realize that you’re not listening.
6. When leaders don’t listen to what their team isn’t saying, they miss out on just as much, if not more. When teams aren’t saying anything at all, that means something too. You’ve probably got big trust and vulnerability issues.
Aside from that though, what’s their body language? What do their eyes tell you? Their posture? Their pace? Their countenance? Their attendance? Their engagement? Paying attention only to what they’re actually saying is a huge mistake.
7. When leaders don’t protect their team from some blows, it can have a damaging effect on their confidence, both in you and the organization. Leaders want to be open, sure; but that doesn’t mean you need to tell your team every single thing that someone suggests that you and your team could do better. You can suggest things to your team, and there are definitely times those suggestions can and should come from others; but as a leader it’s important for you to filter that feedback. Protect your team sometimes. They’re not little kids, but they are human beings.
8. When leaders protect their teams too much, it leads to a false sense that the team is performing at a much higher level than it might really be. This is where you’re balancing out #7. You don’t necessarily want to give the team all the gory details every time, but they’re grown adults who care about the organization and what they do. They’re likely not as fragile as you’ve made them in your mind. Have kind but honest conversations around the team’s performance.
9. When leaders never admit mistakes, or never really admit mistakes, it kills their credibility and destroys trust. Repeat after me: I. was. wrong.
Now whatever you do, don’t follow that up with the word but. Your team does not like big buts and I do not lie. You other leaders can’t deny… (you’re welcome, those of you who now have that song running through your head)
Clearly this isn’t an exhaustive list. What would you add? What leadership goofs have you seen kill teams?