Most books about leadership portray the stellar qualities and personality traits individuals have leveraged to bring them success with the expectation that others having the desire but not yet exhibiting the ability can emulate their thoughts and actions to create similar success. Many of these books rail to recognize that knowledge alone does not guarantee success. Only when we APPLY our knowledge to change an unacceptable situation by systematically identifying and eliminating those things keeping us from success (then replacing them with transformational thoughts and actions that create and establish alternative behaviors) will an environment that provides the opportunity to succeed be established. Few “management experts” address the small, commonsense, practical things that often lead to management failure – thoughts, actions or characteristics that MUST be avoided if we are to realize our full potential. Some of the mistakes a manager often makes that virtually GUARANTEES failure (yet seems to repeat expecting different results) would include:
Mistake #1: PEOPLE COME TO THE JOB FULLY EQUIPPED TO PERFORM, ABSORBING AND IMPLEMENTING NEW IDEAS AS THEY GAIN EXPERIENCE, SO THERE IS NO NEED TO BUDGET FOR OR INVEST IN TRAINING.
Successful managers take the time to hone and develop their people. Individuals perform better when they have a high self –concept – knowing they are fully equipped to perform any job that is assigned. Managers of excellence recognize that elevating the skills of those working for them will enhance their own ability to contribute more to their organization (and realize the rewards of growth). Individuals working for you should be capable of assuming more than their basic job responsibilities so that you have time to seek new challenges. Unless (and until) a Leader’s work can be done by another – the basic aspects and expectations accomplished so that unexpected results can be shown – very little growth will be realized and success will be limited to what is being done rather than expanded to what might be possible.
Mistake #2: SINCE EMPLOYEES TALK ABOUT THEIR PAY INCREASES ANYWAY, IF ALL EMPLOYEES ARE TREATED EQUALLY THEY WILL NOT COMPLAIN AND WILL FOCUS ON THEIR WORK. THE BEST WAY TO AVOID CONFRONTATION IS TO GIVE “ACROSS THE BOARD” PAY INCREASES, PROVIDE EQUAL BONUSES AND GENERALLY TREAT ALL EMPLOYEES THE SAME.
Treating everyone the same will result in everyone BEING the same. All organizations need people to “do” and perform BUT must also identify, encourage and retain leaders, dreamers, visionaries and risk-takers to propose new and untested pathways that create safe passage to previously unconsidered destinations and rewards. Successful managers will reward excellence rather than celebrating mediocrity – identifying and recognizing individuals and their specific contributions to the greater good rather than defaulting to the “easy” way to go. Treating all employees the same tends to encourage those who can truly contribute to take their talents elsewhere, leaving behind only those who are happy to receive good money for producing adequate (but average) results. Nobody has ever ascended the corporate ladder while being weighted down by an anchor. One must climb from a solid base of support in order to grow.
Mistake #3: CRITICIZE INDIVIDUALS WHENEVER YOU CAN – IT BUILDS CHARACTER AND ELEVATES YOU IN THE EYES OF OTHERS WHEN THEY SEE YOU ARE BETTER AND/OR MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE PEOPLE YOU LEAD.
Finding out who caused a major loss and addressing him/her publicly may serve to make sure that a mistake is not repeated – and the example will help to make sure that nobody else will make a similar mistake – but what is really gained by addressing the individual WITHOUT correcting the action that caused the problem? We tend to protect and insulate people from the repercussions of their actions far too often in our “politically correct” lives, making excuses for them or forgiving them without consequence. While people learn from their mistakes, they must be given the tools and the opportunity to change their behavior if they are to become the foundation of an organization’s success. Weak managers critique and criticize – effective managers identify root causes and provide tools that minimize the chances of reoccurrence. Good leaders NEVER attack the offender NOR do they ignore the offense.
Mistake #4: REST UPON THE RESULTS OF YOUR SUCCESS.
Life is not static – it is a continuum of change. The sun rises and sets each day. Life begins and ends. Relationships come and go. Managers who expect their accomplishments to withstand the test of time without moving forward – viewing their successes as destinations rather than steps along the road to success – will be forgotten as quickly as their contributions fade or their successes are equaled by another. Great leaders never accept the status quo as being sufficient – they seek to expand it. They never accept “good enough” as adequate. They see today’s end as tomorrow’s beginning – leveraging what has been finished as the starting point for what has yet to be accomplished rather than accepting it as an temporary pause within an ongoing concentric story. While good things may come to those who wait, successful leaders often create their own future by acting in ways that are noticed by others – their results gaining them recognition without having to raise their own banner inviting praise.
A leader’s success in not measured by what he or she is able to accomplish alone but rather by how much can be accomplished through the power of the team. Leaders lead – plain and simple. Unless (and until) the individual talent within an organization works together for the “common good,” creating a unified solution that is exponentially better than any individual’s singular contribution, goodness may be achieved but greatness will be allusive.
I recently published PATHWAYS AND PASSAGES TO LEADERSHIP, a book encouraging and supporting leadership excellence by helping individuals:
· Identify and achieve success
· Proactively anticipate and work through change
· Accept the responsibilities of leadership, and
· Recognize the need for life and relationships outside of work.
Available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble, Pathways and Passages to Leadership (by David J. Smith) identifies pathways (through pictures) that will provide safe passage (in words) through life’s challenges and opportunities.