Leadership Mistakes You Can Learn From

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As a leader, you make dozens of decisions daily. These decisions may be small and barely noticeable or they may be larger and more complicated. Inevitably, you’ll make mistakes along the way. If you understand the value of learning from your mistakes, and apply these lessons to future decisions, your employees and colleagues will further respect you as their leader, listen to you and value your decision-making skills.

What are some of the most common leadership mistakes?

Not firing a problem performer

No one enjoys firing an employee, which is why many bosses avoid the unpleasant task of letting someone go and keep them on longer than necessary. Delaying the inevitable can hurt your company, your employee’s chances of finding a more suitable job and your standing as an effective leader.

Long term employees are sometimes kept because of a sense of loyalty. No matter how long someone has been an employee, no one should be kept on the payroll due only to past successes. If the employee is no longer able to uphold the standards of his or her position, it might be time to take decisive action.

To become more confident in this task, seek out additional leadership training to help you with the necessary language and techniques that will make firing someone a little easier. A true leader understands when it is the right time to discipline or fire an employee.

Lack of vision

Without a clear vision, you could lose the respect and loyalty of your employees. As the leader of a team, you are responsible for providing a sense of purpose, a realistic scope of priorities and a clear mission for your company. Employees and peers respect leaders who put time and effort into thinking about where the business is going and how best to get there.

Spend the time to make concrete plans and set objectives. Then delegate tasks and responsibilities so the entire team can work towards meeting the company’s goals.  Include both short and long range plans and share this vision with everyone.

Vision is more than just making goals. A leader should follow business trends and keep the business moving towards the future. Being complacent is not the way to lead a team. The strongest leaders are full of ideas and employ other innovators.

Not looking at soft skills when hiring candidates

A resume and cover letter only tell you part of the story. It is a mistake to hire a candidate based solely on their degree or work history without also considering their soft skills. Jobs aren’t one-dimensional, so it doesn’t make sense to hire based only on a handful of criteria.

Soft skills are going to make a big impact on how a person fits into a company. Having strong communication skills is an asset for any employee. An employee that is highly qualified but cannot work well within a team is not going to be as fortuitous as one who works well with others.

Not communicating up the ladder

The best leaders want their entire team to be successful. If you don’t communicate with upper management and inform them how well your employees are doing, you are doing your team a disservice. It falls under your leadership duties to tell them about the team’s accomplishments. Moreover, if there is a problem, management needs to be made aware. Not telling them could lead to a lot more trouble.

Communicate your team’s progress to upper management regularly. Don’t assume that just because they are higher up the ladder that they will know what’s going. Up and down the ladder, clear and frequent communication is a must.

Not listening

Effective leaders make sure they listen actively to their employees and their peers. Be attentive and get out of the mindset that good leaders should do all the talking. Communication is impossible if all you do is talk. If you aren’t sure how well you are listening to your team, take a look at your personnel turnover. Employees that feel as if they don’t have a voice are unlikely to stay at a job long-term.

It might seem obvious, but the message bears repeating:  Mistakes will happen, but good leaders learn from them. Take each experience as a chance to grow and get better. Draw on the lessons learned to become a more effective leader.

 

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This post was offered by Villanova University’s online programs. Villanova offers an organizational leadership program in addition to other disciplines such as online project management courses.

 

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Day 34: Relentless

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There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself well and rewarding yourself for a job well done, but change agents know the feeling will, should, and must be fleeting.  Would we like to have things move along nicely and grow as long as possible?  Sure!  There’s nothing wrong with settling in a bit, but not so much that you get lost in what’s working.

Change agents can’t get too comfortable in their success.  We must always be looking around, asking questions, and considering options and opportunities, both when things are going really poorly and when they’re going really well.  If we don’t, we risk becoming part of the problem by thinking this is the way we should do it from now on.

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Day 35: Grow

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Change is never easy, nor should it be.  If it feels to easy, it is.  So, stand proud, and remember the story of the Dog Soldiers.  As they fought, the Dog Soldiers sang their own song in the face of death.  This is the song of the change agent.  Even as the proverbial bullets and arrows fly, even as you get hit from all sides, stand by your conditions of satisfaction and stand unwavering through all the “pain” again and again.

See you on the other side of the gauntlet!

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Day 33: Adapt

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“Innovation is doing something better that people will pay for.  The funny thing is that your existing competition does not stay still, and new competition comes from nowhere – so you have to change.”

I love that quote from my friend Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association.  Gary knows a lot about adapting – his industry is in a constant state of change, and his association’s trade show, CES, has needed to adapt many times in order to thrive.

But while I agree the competition in business never stays still, I don’t agree that it comes from nowhere. In fact, it comes from everywhere, starting with your customers and long before they click to buy.  You can innovate and challenge existing models all you want, but if your customers aren’t with you to begin with, they will never follow your innovation.

 

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Day 32: Creativity

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Change agents must refuse to compromise on creativity when they believe it’s the right thing to do.  We did this with the Kodak Challenge and the PGA Tour, refusing to be tied to older sponsorship models like NASCAR and the Olympics.  This was another kind of issue:  challenging a procedural hurdle.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t start by trying to follow procedure most of the time.  We did.  We had only a week to act, but, as much as I hate process for process’s sake, we had followed procedure most of the time.

That’s a good litmus test for the value of your idea, not matter how big or small it may be:  it cannot compromise your principles of who or what you are, even if it violates the procedures you have in place.

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