The Top 7 Leadership Pitfalls That Can Derail You

9 May

     Now is the time to shine as a leader AND now is the time where you have the opportunities to do so.  We’ve been dealing with some tough times and organizations need people to step up like never before.

The Kentucky Derby was last Saturday and I find it fascinating to watch the course strategy.  The winner, as has happened in numbers of races in the past, made his move in the final quarter.  He stayed in the pack and then came up the middle when there was an opening and surged ahead to win by two lengths.  There are similarities to the role of leaders and organizational success.  It’s in times like right now that savvy people make their move.  New leaders emerge and smart leaders hone their skills to position themselves for better roles.

I’ve written about how important it is to know yourself: know your strengths, development areas, triggers, and abilities.  Knowing yourself is also evaluating your course and knowing what you need to do to emerge as a leader for the future.  Knowing what can get you in trouble as a leader and how to avoid the pitfalls is a part of that.  Its easy to get derailed with common and easy-to-do pitfalls.  Keeping an eye out for them is the first step to avoiding them.

Let’s look at the pitfalls.  Here’s a quick list:

  1. Letting your pride get in the way.  When you think you have things wired and don’t have contingency plans or fail to listen to what others are saying or recommending, you are setting yourself up for a big fall.
  2. Failing to recognize and appreciate others.  No one does it alone and letting people know that you value their contribution and ideas builds commitment.
  3. Spending little time on developing leaders, not followers.  Followers do as they are instructed.  Leaders build their skills, bring their ideas, and add to your vision.  When you develop leaders, you build for the future and you compound your effectiveness.
  4. Lacking authenticity.  Leaders who say one thing and do another undermine trust.  “Walking the talk” is essential to building trust.  Effective leaders never ask their teams to do something they wouldn’t do.  They are transparent in their communication and demonstrate consistency in their actions.
  5. Micromanaging.  The job of a leader is to lay out the direction, to define the “WHAT,” and then to let their teams determine the “HOW.”  When leaders specify the “HOW” they limit creativity and potential and, most importantly, commitment.
  6. Focusing on the poor performers.  Do you need to address poor performance?  Of course.  Do you need to spend more than 20% of your time on poor performers?  No.  Paying attention to the bottom 10% at the exclusion of your higher performers brings all performance down.  What you give attention to is what you’ll see more of.  Address the poor performers, give them a plan, and give them a time line.  Then focus most of your time on how you can help your higher performers use their talents.
  7. Doing the work yourself because you’re faster and do it better.  Developing others is a fundamental skill leaders must have.  Sure, doing work yourself may get it done faster…now.  What happens later when you have other things you must do and you haven’t developed your team’s skills?  Give a fish, teach to fish – it’s the same thing.  Allow for mistakes and don’t put pressure on deadlines when you know people have to learn.  You’ll be so much better off in the future.

What are you doing to plan your move?  Take a look at your effectiveness and identify one action you can take that will help you emerge as a leader to be reckoned with.

2 Responses to “The Top 7 Leadership Pitfalls That Can Derail You”

  1. Nonprofit Chapin May 9, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    Great post! I would go even further into #1 by really focusing on listening. Knowing the opinions of those around you is critical to being a successful leader. If you can demonstrate that these opinions impacted your decision, even better.
    -N.C.

  2. Jennifer Heinly May 9, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    Great post Rhonda. Keep up the great work.

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