The Biggest Mistakes Leaders Make

I had the pleasure of presenting a Ken Blanchard Companies webinar on this topic recently to 1000 global participants. The content was extremely well-received so I was inspired to present highlights here.

What drives leader behaviors in the workplace? Research indicates that role modeling (good or bad) by previous bosses, the organization’s culture (also can be a positive or negative influence), and social style (personality type) drives leader behaviors. Recent analysis reveals that the slowly improving global economy is also a driver. Many leaders find themselves in survival mode. They are playing it safe. They closely monitor staff decisions and spending. They are trying to do more with less, maintaining – as best as possible – quality productivity and delivery with a smaller workforce. All of these influences can create a perfect environment for leaders making BIG mistakes.

A Leader’s Biggest Mistakes

The four biggest mistakes leaders make include:

  • Inconsistent communication
    This is, by far, the most frequently reported mistake by leaders. It takes many forms. It can impede a division, an organization, a team, or an individual player.
  • Lack of clear strategy and goals
    Ken Blanchard says, “All good performance starts with clear goals.” He’s right. And the high performing, values-aligned organizations we’ve studied for our culture change process indicate that strategy comes first, then goals are aligned to the strategic thrusts that have been formalized. Clear strategy creates the context for and meaning of the day-to-day work people do.
  • Poor accountability
    The best leaders demonstrate a relentless focus on holding themselves and others in their organization accountable. With these leaders, promises made – for a task, for a quality standard, for a deadline, for a budget – are promises kept. This approach builds performance consistency, reliability, and integrity of everyone involved.
  • Reactive vs. proactive efforts
    “Fighting fires” is the byline of reactive leaders. If they’re in survival mode and reacting, they engage in influencing moments from a fear base. Proactive leaders come to influencing moments from a trust base.

The Impact of These Mistakes

Everything leaders do either help, hinder, or hurt the creation of peak performers. When leaders make these BIG mistakes, employees tell us they experience:

  • Eroded trust between them and their leaders (primary impact) and between them and their peers (secondary impact)
  • An “I win, you lose” environment in their organization’s culture
  • Perceptions of unfairness, usually driven by inconsistent accountability
  • Less discretionary energy applied to goals and tasks

NONE of these impacts create inspired, talented employees in a workplace. In the comments section below, add your ideas on how leaders can avoid making these mistakes. I’ll share my thoughts AND yours in next week’s blog post.

What are your suggestions for how leaders can avoid making these mistakes? What is your experience with making or experiencing these classic leader mistakes? What mistakes or impacts have I left out? Tell us in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT from my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, understand the research on positivity in the workplace, and more!

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