As we all know, if you want to get a definition of leadership, you will come across an unlimited number of different perspectives. I am sure the same fact would apply to a list of “not to do’s” for leaders. Or with a different point of view, one might say that there is a danger zone for good leaders that they should keep away if they want to be effective. In this blog post, I would like to share my perspective on that “leadership danger zone” with you:
- Uncertainty and Doubt: Your and organization’s mind should be crystal clear about the direction, what to do and what to achieve. One of the top responsibilities of a leader is to clearly communicate the vision, strategy and key objectives. And unfortunately telling it once or twice will not suffice. On that respect, as a leader you should forget the term “over-communication”. I believe that in leading any kind of an organization this concept does not exist, you can never communicate enough and you should always do several checks for the clarity of your messages. You should be like a woodpecker who is hitting the same point over and over again. Lack of clarity and insufficient communication would mean an organization which is not going towards the same direction, wasting organizational energy and risking competitiveness in the marketplace. Ask yourself on a daily basis: Am I clear enough? Am I communicating enough?
- Command and Control: The underlying assumption of such leadership behavior is people cannot be trusted when they are left alone to reach their objectives. They should be micro managed, told what to do and then should be controlled over and over again at every step in the process. The risk you face with such an attitude is an organization which is paralyzed, cannot take initiatives, cannot be creative and innovative. If you micro manage without empowerment and enough delegation, there might be a hike in the organizational performance in the very short term. But you will face a big lack of engagement which is very deadly for organizational performance in the mid to long run. My advice would be to hire people you can trust, make them feel that you trust them, give them room to execute, coach and support them during adversity, reward and recognize them when they achieve their objectives .
- Favoritism: You do that at your own peril. Nothing could be more dangerous for team spirit, employee engagement and individual motivation. This goes back to the fundamental principle of fairness which is the basis for the right kind of governance and management. If people believe that you are not fair and favor people based on factors which has got nothing to do with performance and values, your leadership impact, the respect you have from people and trust in the team will be down the drain. If you do that intentionally, my take is that you would be very inclined to ignore inputs or feedback that can change your behavior. But if you think that you might be giving a perception of favoritism without any intent, walk away from it as fast as you can. Ask your subordinates, peers or manager for feedback. It is extremely important to know and change the perception as soon as you can.
- Self Centrism: We, as leaders, are here to spread success not to own it. If you create an impression of I am here to own success and neglect your contribution towards it, you will be sending a very negative signal to the whole organization. People are watching leaders, what they do and don’t, 7 by 24. If you think that you can walk away by stealing success from your subordinates and claim it for you own fame and recognition, you are damn wrong. People record everything in their minds and hearts, they then return it to you with mediocre performance and lack of accountability. You should be a strong enabler of success for people, a platform for their upward steps in their career, a magnet which attracts talent, not the other way around.
- Isolation: So you have your room, assistant, maybe you go in and out from an exclusive door to your office, you only talk to your direct reports and you believe that you manage business by managing numbers, not people. My advice to you, break the walls around you and be reachable, very reachable. Practice management by walking around. Touch people. Have informal chats with them. Spread ideas. Be inspiring. Be a sounding board for your people’s innovative thinking. Depending on the limitations of culture, infuse maximum level of informality between you and organization so that people can open up and speak their minds. In my understanding of leadership, this is how you unleash the true potential of your team, your organization.
I neither can claim that this content is final nor that it is fully comprehensive. Besides,while writing, I had thought that dwelling on some of the above points might well justify an individual post. Hence, stay tuned, there might be additional posts coming on that subject.
Photo: Courtesy of Hakan Koçoğlu
Thank you for the post. Very valid topics, explained in a clear way. If I may add a couple thoughts;
– For “uncertainity and doubt”, using different communication channels/tools is often as important as repeating the communication. As leaders, we might have preferred communication tools but some people in our organization will receive the information better when other methods are used.
– Thanks for bringing up the “favoritism” topic. It is rarely discussed but often a reality in organizations. Since this is more about the perception of the others, it is very hard to identify alone. If the leader is inclined to get feedback mostly from the same people, he/she will end up getting feedback from the ones that he/she favorites and the problem will never come to the leader’s attention.
– Lastly, if the leader wants to live in an “isolated” fairy tale there is no better way than talking to the direct reports only. Especially if the leader uses “delegation” creatively as a way to keep bad news away from herself/himself.