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Leadership Thought #477 – Eight Mistakes Leaders Make That Get Them In Trouble

July 17, 2015

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Mistakes are a part of life.  As the saying goes, “sometimes we are our own worst enemy.”  I’ve seen many good leaders travel down a “rat trap” of their own making.  Often this is done with the best of intentions, but the results usually have nothing to do with the original intention behind them. The following eight leadership mistakes happen much more frequently than they should:

  1. Treating everyone the same – high performing organizations should be meritocracies; leaders need to be able to differentiate, reward and manage their top players accordingly.
  2. Leaning too much on experience and gut and paying minimal attention to the facts – busy people tend to take intellectual shortcuts; you will never successfully navigate the present and future until you make a conscious effort to understand it.
  3. Falling in love with every opportunity – not all opportunities are worth pursuing and, in some cases, they will do much more harm than good; stick to what you can and will do well and say no to distractions.
  4. Not investing the time and energy to become a great coach/mentor to their own direct reports – your top people need support and guidance just like everyone else and it is through them you will achieve success or not.
  5. Not understanding the difference between profitability and cash flow – just because you make a profit on the books doesn’t mean you have positive cash flow and just because you have positive cash flow it doesn’t mean you are profitable; what you bill and what you collect and when you collect it are all related to each other but can kill you as independent issues.
  6. Turning short-term debt into long term liabilities – short-term debt that gets stretched out over a longer term can become overly burdensome and will inhibit your future financial opportunities; current liabilities should be paid off within a year or less and are meant to be a stopgap measure not a long-term solution to problems with your economic model.
  7. Spending more time behind a desk than out in the field – it’s far too easy to get distanced from the front-line realities of your customers and employees; make sure you spend time daily interacting with the people that will make or break your company.
  8. Not having a strategy guiding their business efforts – organizations that make it up as they go along take the hard road to success often never quite getting there; a well thought out and implemented strategy creates clarity, focus and organizational alignment around what’s most important.

Of course, none of us are perfect and mistakes will happen.  There is a good portion of life which is trial and error.  Our goal is to grow stronger and become wiser with life experience whatever that ends up meaning.  However, making and repeating certain business mistakes is a clear road to leadership frustration and failure.  The good news is that there is no shortage of books and experts out there to point you in the right direction.  The key question always will be, are you paying attention and pushing yourself to keep learning and making better mistakes in the future?

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