Every leader and manager makes mistakes. These can however, be some of the best learning opportunities to move forward and make improvements. The important thing is to learn from them and make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice (or at least not over and over again).
Some common mistakes in leadership can have a big impact on not only that person’s effectiveness, but also on their team and the organization as a whole.
Here’s some common leadership mistakes to avoid:
Not delegating enough and trying to handle everything yourself: It can be tempting to think that if you don’t do something yourself then it won’t get done (or at least done the way you want it to). Leaders who are not able to effectively delegate however, are not able to fully lead their team or provide those below them with opportunities to grow and develop skills.
Poor Communication: It’s great to have wonderful and innovative ideas and goals, but if you aren’t communicating them effectively with your team, organization and stakeholders, then you a missing a key step. It is essential that leaders communicate in a timely manner and message things with thought and intention. In an HBR study 91 percent of employees identified “communication issues” as a pain point with their bosses. Communication is key in many situations and it will get others to buy into the mission and goals for the work they are doing.
Being too Reactive: In many non-profits the time consuming part of our jobs is dealing with the everyday crises that occur. It is important to handle recurrent crises with a more long term plan, so you can move out of crisis mode and make real progress and change. Themes should be identified and strategies put in place to develop effective systems to prevent issues or at least minimize their impact moving forward.
Lacking Humility: One of the biggest mistakes for leaders is to be seen as arrogant and egotistical, or believe people will do things just because they are told to. Humility isn’t often celebrated as a leadership quality, but it is highly associated with success. In Jim Collins Book ‘Good to Great’ he found two common traits of CEOs in companies that transitioned from average to superior market performance: humility and an indomitable will to advance the cause of the organization. Humble leaders encourage others to speak up and promote a culture that brings out the best in everyone. When things go wrong, they admit to their mistakes and take responsibility. When things go right, they shine the spotlight on others.
Avoiding Conflict: Being the boss can sometimes be a lonely job and it is human nature to want to be liked, but it is essential that leaders tackle the difficult issues and make the decisions that are in the best interest of the mission of the organization, even if they will not be the most popular. These difficult tasks also include addressing any employees who are not performing. Strong leaders are able to give clear and direct feedback that addresses the issue without being harsh (a good resource is the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott).
Being too hands off: A leader doesn’t need to be involved in the day to day minutiae of the organization, but they also cannot lock themselves away and be disconnected. It is important that any leader is present in their team and also has some presence at multiple levels of the organization. This goes a long way in building trust, developing a team and knowing what direction the organization needs to take.
Not listening to others: A person who works alone can only be so effective, they need to also take on the ideas and feedback of others. Being an active listener encourages stronger and more effective communication. When team members know that they will be heard, they are more apt to openly share their ideas and provide feedback. This leads to an increase in employee engagement and other positive outcomes.