8 Common Mistakes You Might Be Making as a Leader (and How to Fix Them) Many leaders struggle to find their footing, and may make mistakes along their journey. Here are a few you might be making yourself.
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How would you feel if you had unaware leaders with poor leadership qualities running your business?
Leadership is a serious responsibility, yet it's difficult for some to grasp based on the way they go about it. Time and again, I've watched my friends and colleagues in leadership positions make similar mistakes, myself included.
My intention in sharing these mistakes with you is to let them act as leadership guardrails and a self-assessment tool.
1. Waiting for employees to figure out what you want
I have heard a few leaders say "I know what I don't want but I don't know what I want."
If you fail to provide direction, people fill in the blanks as best as they know. This causes micro leaders scattered across the organization building what they think is the best line of action.
Find out what motivates you. Why does the world need your product? Then clearly communicate your vision and ideas with your team.
2. Behaving like an employee when you are expected to be a leader
Employees have limited visibility within the entire organization and the future roadmap. They are focused on the day-to-day, but they look up to leadership for motivation, growth opportunities and innovation.
Make sure you rise above narrow scopes, exhibit composure not panic, innovate not just maintain the status quo and demonstrate ownership not criticize and blame.
Provide strategic direction on processes and methodologies and provide feedback. Understand how creating opportunities will keep your team motivated and challenged. Create interesting work that helps growth. Solve difficult problems.
Employees will model the behavior they see. Don't inadvertently end up creating a culture you never intended to have.
3. Bringing on advisors without checks and balances
Leadership is a lonely role, and at times, leaders are quick to make their cheerleaders or friends their advisors instead of bringing people skilled in the field. These folks are likely to tell you what you want to hear, and oftentimes, that advice turns out to be harmful rather than helpful.
Supervise your advisors' work and evaluate their effectiveness with measurable goals and team feedback. Make sure advisors integrate themselves with the team rather than working in their own silo without considerable impact.
4. Delegating leadership
Delegation is not meant to get rid of your work. Yes, you delegate to empower your teammates and help them grow. Sure, delegation is a secret to scaling your organization. But it doesn't mean you outsource your own work in the name of delegation. This is not leadership, but rather delegation disguised in failure. For instance, holding someone else responsible to come up with a vision and a product and understand the market.
You cannot do everything yourself — I get that. But what are you bringing to the table? Get your hands dirty: Your hard work will automatically attract respect from your team members.
5. Hiding information between teams
Not being transparent with your team doesn't give them the best chance to win. You inadvertently build information silos, and in the end, no one has the full picture.
I've seen instances when leaders experience resistance to an idea from one team, they go to another team and then try to keep the two teams away from each other. Spend time convincing the whole team and getting buy-in rather than avoiding them to create unnecessary chaos and conflict. Wasting resources and time reduces productivity and is a huge motivation sucker.
6. Pushing teams for speed at all cost
There's a general belief that being first on the market gives a tremendous advantage over competitors. Founders want to be the first and are willing to burn capital without measure. But I have seen far more companies fail from growing too quickly. It's mainly because leaders fail to build a large risk appetite.
Your reaction to a setback — finger-pointing or blaming attitude — instantly changes the company culture around taking risks. Model what you're looking for by having a long-term mindset, think about performance, reliability and sustainability. Focus on your choices that would inevitably lead to debt. Catch yourself if you are constantly hacking things together. Reevaluate your scope or timeline for the desired quality.
7. Failing to plan for failures
It's a cliche to say "I don't have a plan B. My plan B is to make my plan A work."
Somehow that statement has translated into not thinking about worst-case scenarios, not planning for that rainy day. Some leaders don't have any space for "what ifs."
You can't be right all the time — and it's not even about you. Sometimes circumstances are difficult to predict and you cannot control your surroundings. Spend the necessary time upfront to think through scenarios that could go wrong and steps to resolve those issues.
8. Getting tempted by the Shiny Object Syndrome
I vividly remember when Clubhouse, the live podcast app was launched, there were so many founders who wanted to jump on the bandwagon and build a Clubhouse-like feature.
Twitter built its own Clubhouse. Reddit did the same, Facebook followed suit and every social media product wanted a Clubhouse extension of their own. I have a couple of founder friends who wanted to say, "I too am capable of building a Clubhouse-like product."
Being in a constant state of distraction that something else is worth pursuing comes at a huge expense: the present. Take a pause and question yourself: Do you really need that feature? Evaluate alternatives, can't you register a private room on Clubhouse and use it before you reinvent the wheel? This type of competitiveness will burn you to the ground faster than you think.