By pa360, Apr 9 2016 08:35PM
We all know great leadership when we see it. People are inspired by it, organisations are transformed by it and the divided are united by it. But an eagerness to lead does not, by itself, translate into effective and capable leadership. On the contrary, leadership is a learned competency, which is developed as much by knowing what to avoid as it is demonstrated by knowing what needs to be done. So then, what are the biggest leadership pitfalls to avoid? Well, set out below are my top seven.
1. the lure of lordship - one of the biggest traps that leaders often fall into is the pitfall of 'lordship'. A lord expects to be served, but a leader expects to serve. The best leaders exemplify their leadership by putting others first and putting themselves second. A 'leader' that is actually better known for lordship, undermines their credibility by subjugating the very people they are supposed to serve.
2. a closed mind - the problem with a closed mind is that it is often symptomatic of self-righteousness. The problem with self-righteousness is that those who demonstrate this trait are often the last to realise it. Even after irreparable damage has been done, the self-righteous will absolve themselves of responsibility and look for whom else to blame for their faults and failings. The fact is that, even if your mind is open, you will not always be right, but if your mind is closed you won't know when you are wrong.
3. indecisiveness - vacillation or indecisiveness doesn't just sap confidence, it creates utter confusion. The ability to be decisive is important because it provides clear direction and enables a leader to unite effort behind a common purpose. A leader who fails the test of decisiveness undermines their own leadership and invites questions about their leadership legitimacy. Decisiveness does not guarantee that you won't get it wrong, but if you cannot be decisive, how will you ever get it right?
4. weak character judgement - one of the main expectations of those in leadership is to be able to judge and evaluate the character, capabilities and competencies of those around them. This is important because a leader needs to make important decisions regarding the delegation of duties and the promotion of subordinates. However, a leader who struggles to rightly judge the character of others will inevitably find themselves surrounded by sycophants, the self-serving and the cynical.
5. lack of personal integrity - the question of personal integrity is essential because it goes to the very heart of leadership character. A leader that is perceived to be deceptive, dishonest and unreliable is like a house built on quicksand. No-one in their right mind would go anywhere near such a place, much less seek shelter there. Character is the solid foundation upon which leadership credibility can be demonstrated and upon which leadership confidence can be built.
6. failure to recognise others - during a time of celebration, a truly great leader should be falling over themselves to give credit to others. Leaders who feel the need to claim credit for themselves, will likewise think nothing of throwing subordinates under the bus when things are not going well. In simple terms, leadership that cannot recognise the effort of others, will not inspire confidence, and if leadership cannot inspire confidence it will not inspire loyalty.
7. failure to 'walk the walk' - the most effective form of communication is not what you say it is what you do. Leaders who say one thing and do something else demonstrate that they lack credibility and people who lack credibility simply cannot be trusted. But it doesn't end there, without trust you cannot exercise influence either and without influence a leader cannot mobilise effort.
It is important to stress that every leader makes mistakes. In many ways, getting it wrong is an essential part of the learning process and helps to ensure that a leader can get it right next time. Yes, even great leaders can fall into a pit. But what separates great leaders from the rest, is not how quickly they fell in, but how quickly they were able to climb out.