“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Frederick Douglass
There are many things that we as leaders do that are not effective and many times we actually set up problems or make problems worse. I have mentored and coached leaders in many fields for 31+ years and still have challenges myself in these areas. We are never clear of dysfunction, especially when we are blind to our own deficits. Here’s my list of the top 5 challenges we have as leaders:
1. Over Functioning: Put simply, we do too much. Yes, we do things that other can do for us or for the enterprise we lead. It’s important to remember that being the “Leader” is different from being the “Doer.” The Transformational Leader finds things to assign to others, mentors and coaches as the task is delegated and gets out of the way. Micromanaging in the opposite of this. Assign the task or event, define the specific outcomes, create the accountabilities, and get out of the way. Did I say, get out of the way? Yes, let them do it and check in before deadlines to see where coaching or mentoring can be helpful. When the leader over functions by doing things others can do (and want to do) the response is that they under function. How often do we blame others for not doing what we want when, in fact, we have done the opposite of inspire them. The first duty of the Transformational Leader is to identify and delegate tasks that they don’t need to be doing. And to delegate enough of these to make a difference in time and energy management. Supporting 3 delegations is a practical strategy. You get enough off your place to have time to follow up.
2. No Feedback System: Blind spots are deadly! We don’t see them (hence the name, blind spots) but they see us and they compromise our effectiveness. What we don’t know that we don’t know can limit and even stop our success. Lack of self-awareness is a huge problem that’s a silent killer of attitude with teams. Everybody knows the problem except the leader. Pretending to know what you are doing is deadly and your team will prove to you that you don’t know what you are doing. Every leader needs a group of people who will speak the truth and point out the blind spots – not members of your team, however. This is the primary reason leaders need a coach.
3. The BOSS Paradigm: Not understanding how leadership works in today’s world is a set back to leaders. The old autocratic paradigm of the BOSS isn’t really the best model for the current culture. The boss model is dead. The influencer model is alive and thriving. The answer is to be able to communicate accurately what you want and then be able to mentor and coach the person to success.
4. Not Managing Emotions: An emotional leader creates anxiety in the culture. This anxiety replaces logical thinking with emotional reacting. The leader’s ability to manage self is key to the success. If the leader isn’t disciplined, then the team isn’t disciplined. If the leader is emotional, the team is emotional. The culture is a reflection of the leader. To be able to manage self, create guiding principles to guide decision making and to keep yourself regulated. See podcast #4 “Guiding Principles” for more information.
5. Poor Communication Skills: Educators tell us that people remember only 10% of what they hear and only 20% of what they see. Wow, it’s no wonder people get things wrong. It might also be HOW it’s communicated that causes the problem. Unclear and incomplete messages cause lots of problems and give those who are trying to dodge accountability an opportunity to place blame on someone else. Sending email as the primary communication causes many problems and is a topic for another session. The next statistic is that when hearing and seeing are combined the retention goes up to 65% or more. When there’s an activity or dialogue included the response. Here’s the solution: be sure the message is accurate and check for understanding, ask for a response to be sure that the message was received and understood. Communication is a two-way activity.
The big picture for leadership for me is to continue working on skills and systems and learn from what doesn’t work – I call these “Learning Opportunities” rather than failures. The only failure is the failure to learn from ourselves.