10 Fatal Mistakes Leaders Make Which Prevent Effective Leadership Results and Success
By Mark Hamister
Over the course of my 43-year career I have had the opportunity to see effective and ineffective behaviors which impact leadership results. Indeed, I have made many of the mistakes that I talk about in this writing myself and suffered the consequences. The advantage of hindsight is that you can more clearly see the impact of those mistakes than one can while making them. As I enter the next stages of my career, and as I step back and look at our own Company, it seems appropriate to share what I have learned in hopes that it may help you become a more effective and respected leader.
Much has been written on “what to do”. And yes, I have written more about what to do rather than what not to do. This writing will focus on the ten fatal mistakes that some leaders make and continue to make. These mistakes, I have found, can hinder your personal ability to lead others.
I have found that the people who you are trying to lead, will tolerate mistakes if you make them, learn from them and do not repeat them. So, the mistakes themselves are not fatal. Continuing them can be, however.
Are you secure enough in your own capabilities to step back and learn more about habits and behaviors which can be destructive (even if not intended)? It is not easy to be effective, it takes more work to be effective and to avoid otherwise natural tendencies in this society today that seems to be focused on always blaming someone else for everything. Personal responsibility is a lost art. However, for those who find the path to bringing personal responsibility back will be the most successful.
Do you want to be successful? Do you want to put your head on the pillow every night feeling good about yourself, your team and your successes? Then I recommend that you sincerely listen to the advice in this writing.
- VALUES SHOULD DRIVE EVERYTHING. Values (and not what you value which are decidedly different) such as honesty, integrity, work ethic, accountability, respect and trust must be the foundation of everything that you do. When you step over the line (and we all do occasionally) step back, apologize and fix it. People who do not recognize that their reputation, relative to values, is critical to success are missing the point ---- your values are critical to your reputation. You can be demanding (but need to be fair), you can be stubborn (but need to listen) but you can’t regularly throw values out with the bath water and expect people to follow you. People like to follow successful people even if it means facing the brutal facts about themselves --- but they will not follow someone that they know is dishonest. Many leaders think just because they are the leader that they do not have to live and breathe values. This is a huge and fatal mistake. Your word must be your bond. You must remember what you promise.
- EMOTIONAL DRIVEN DECISIONS ARE FATAL. In my humble opinion, one of the most common fatal mistakes potentially great leaders make is to allow their emotions to drive decisions, actions and statements. Emotions cloud judgment. Emotions have the power to “change” facts in your own mind and make them real. Now, we are all emotional human beings. Those that learn how to control their emotions usually accomplish much more. Negative emotions are success killers! Negative emotions lead to conspiracy theories and feelings. Negative emotions never lead to anything positive in our relationships with others and are frequently destructive. The more we “heap” negative emotions over time, the more destructive they become. We either allow negative emotions to rule or we don’t. It is a choice. Sometimes it may not feel like a choice --- but it is always a choice. Nothing good can come from negative emotions in your personal or professional lives, not ever. If you are upset emotionally, do not make decisions, judge people or even interact with others if you can. You will only live to regret just about everything you do when you are emotionally upset. You may also cause irreversible damage to your relationships. Others do not want you reacting emotionally, period. So, don’t. In conclusion on this point I ask you one question --- has anything good ever come from your emotional outbursts, reactions, etc.? So how does your answer suggest you might listen to the advice here?
- JUDGING PEOPLE IS ALMOST ALWAYS HURTFUL AND NON-PRODUCTIVE. We are all different people. We have different behavioral backgrounds (some call it behavioral DNA) that we cannot change. Then we have those areas where we can learn, grow and change. Learn to accept others’ differences. Do not insist that others approach things the way you do. Accept others approaches and thought patterns. Do not judge others harshly. When you are mean spirited in your judgements, almost always nothing good comes from it. Most of all, you will lose respect of others when you become mean spirited and immoveable in your judgements of others. Ergo, it eventually hurts you more than the person you are judging. Judging people from an emotional standpoint will almost always create extreme hurt, distrust and a loss of respect. Relationships suffer most when you judge others form an emotional standpoint. Be careful to not judge people outside your own team. It is hard enough to judge yourself and your immediate team members. You should focus on obtaining all the facts and knowledge necessary to judge and evaluate yourself and your immediate team. You will never have all the facts on people or another person’s teams ---- crossing the line to judge others is a huge mistake and usually causes unintended consequences including a loss of “trust” directed at you. Fact is we are all different people with different behavioral DNA’s that we cannot change. Accept those differences and try to use them to our collective advantage. Lastly --- learn to forgive. It is a powerful and effective emotion. The best leaders and most mature persons learn to forgive no matter what. Why not call three people today and settle your differences with them and truly and genuinely forgive them. Then see how good it feels.
- DRAMA IS POISON TO SUCCESS. You have probably met many people who seem to love drama and may be even stirring up drama about others and then stepping back while they watch the fighting. These are ill-informed people who are at their root, destructive. I have never met a person in my life who shared a story with me where they promoted, encouraged or participated even slightly in drama or perpetuating drama that resulted in anything good. Most people who engage in drama are unhappy people. They are unhappy with their lives, their careers and many people around them. Mostly they are unhappy with themselves and do not know how to stop the downward spiral. Let me be clear --- those that promote or encourage drama are on a downward spiral. Those that listen, follow and/or participate will only join that person on the downward spiral. Drama is a poison to a relationship and to a Company. Stop drama at all costs. Those that love drama do not care about you and may someday turn the drama in your direction. Those that love drama should never work for us, instead they should work for the competition so that they hold that Company back and not us. There is no solution to drama except separation of employment. Those leaders who do not understand this, do not understand that their first responsibility as a leader---- is to team.
- FAILURE TO KNOW OR OBTAIN THE FACTS FIRST. Too many leaders once they achieve their leadership position, do not feel the need to know or obtain the facts before they react. They think their experience should carry them. This is a fatal mistake and frequently leads to continual job hopping by the leader. They are never happy and it is always someone else’s fault. As a leader, you are responsible for obtaining and remembering the facts that impact the five or six most important areas of your Company’s success and mission. If you don’t know the facts, do you expect your people to know them? You must walk the talk. Without knowing the facts surrounding an important matter, your decisions will frequently be misguided, will miss the mark and will not produce results. Have you ever wondered to yourself at night in front of the mirror after a hard day --- I have a lot of experience, I know my trade --- but why do successful results elude me? Frequently it is because you are making decisions without knowing the facts. You must drill down and know more about the facts than anyone else if you want to be the most successful leader on your larger team. Armed with facts you will always be better equipped to make better decisions than those that do not!
- FAILURE TO FACE THE BRUTAL FACTS. None of us are always right. Most often multiple minds will produce better results than any one mind (i.e. teamwork). However, one cannot learn, grow and get better at creating exceptional results if you do not first face the brutality of facts in an open and honest manner. Face the brutal facts if you want to become more effective.
- EXTERNAL LOCUS OF CONTROL IS A FAILED PHILOSOPHY! We live in a society that loves to blame someone else for everything. We love to almost never take responsibility for our actions, results and outcomes. I am sure you have met or worked with people who always blame someone else for their mistakes and their “bad luck.” Well I have news for you. In my humble opinion, there is no truth to the saying “bad luck.” There is only the luck that you drive (good or bad) based upon your personal responsibility for yourself and what happens to you. ELOC as it is called (external locus of control) allows the person to feel like they are escaping responsibility in this society of instant messaging and no real self-responsibility. When you think of the most successful people you admire --- do you see them blaming others (even when it might be deserved) --- no you don’t. Great leaders and great people always look at what they could have done better, how they could have approached the situation better, how they could have been less judgmental, how they could have been more accepting of our differences as human beings. Even if the other person is fully or partially responsible --- worry about yourself, what you can do differently and how you can grow.
- DOING THE SAME THING AND EXPECTING A DIFFERENT RESULT. My definition of insanity (and shared by many other people) is --- continue to do the same thing that is not working but expect a different result. If what you are doing is not working or not delivering the needed results --- change what you are doing and do it a different way. Otherwise you are doomed to repeat failure. Do you want to repeat your failures? If what you are not doing does not produce the expected (if not exceptional) results, then you should approach things differently and thoughtfully.
- TITLES DO NOT CREATE LEADERS. Many people think that when they finally rise in their careers to achieve a manager or officer title that they have arrived at being a leader. There is nothing further from the truth! So, if you have a title, stop thinking that you are a leader. You are a leader of people only if your genuine intent is to lead people to a successful conclusion. Most people want to be successful people in their careers and their personal lives. If they trust you and if they see you as someone who has consistently achieved success, then they will likely want to follow you. However, you must be able to lead them to great success. Focus on what will make your business or the part of your business that you oversee successful. Then lead your team to that goal line. Be firm, fair and consistent. This is not a popularity contest. Your goal should not be to be liked. It should be to be respected as someone who takes their team to a successful conclusion. It is hard stuff. But it is rewarding.
- BEING SUCCESSFUL IN BUSINESS (OR ON THE JOB) IS NOT A POPULARITY CONTEST. If your objective with your team is to be popular, you will likely never achieve your fullest potential and your team will not either. Remember, people like to be successful more than anything else. When you are more concerned about being, popular and liked, you will be hesitant to guide people, help them with the brutal facts, to keep them accountable and more. Popularity desires are “cancers” to success, especially team success. As a leader, you must be firm, fair and consistent. Being popular should never be the goal. Being successful and ultimately respected should be the only goal. Always forgive your team members for their mistakes quickly (same day if possible). However, you should remember for an extended period. If the team member truly learns and does not repeat the mistake in question, then in the coming months and years you will not need to address it again. However, if you need to repeatedly address the same issue (the reason you need to remember) then you have yet another issue to address.
Do you want to be the best in class? Then act like it. Great habits or behaviors that lead to success do not fall in your lap --- you must work for them. Take these ten lessons seriously. These are things that you can improve upon and change now. Take one per week and really work on changing your behavior on each, each week. Then in ten weeks repeat them all over again until these lessons become habits --- great habits.