If you are a CEO, the time to lead is now! It is a fact of life that the only constant in the world is change. You cannot resist the future you must only embrace it. In addition, as we’ve seen lately, the present can change course quickly. This is why adaptability is such an […]
I am regularly flabbergasted by the number of professional people I interact with who think it is okay to just miss meetings and/or deadlines as it suits them. This is especially true when it come to philanthropic or voluntary responsibilities. I do my best to give people the benefit of the doubt and understand that they can be stretched way too thin, but after awhile, why should this be anyone’s problem but their own. Whatever happened to personal responsibility? We are all busy. We are all striving to find work-life balance. Life is about making choices and establishing priorities.
Leadership isn’t easy or everyone could do it. Some talented people make it look easy, but we often don’t see all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make it look this way. Most leaders struggle at some point and have to learn some difficult lessons along the way. Experience can be the best teacher if you are open to learning. I’ve observed the following 25 ways (in no particular order) that leaders tend to get themselves in trouble:
Anyone can manipulate words and stretch the facts to suit their short term objective. However, it is difficult long-term to fake behavior and eventually your words will catch up with you.
I’ve often heard it said that if you want to know what a person truly values, pay attention to what they do, not what they say. Actions do speak louder than words. Many of us are hypocrites and don’t even realize it. I have a professional belief that a considerable amount of unhappiness in leadership (and life) is due to individuals living in conflict with their true values and focusing on the wrong priorities. We are either moving closer to or further away from from the person we’d like to be. There is no standing still. The person we become is a direct result of the outcomes we create and how we get there.
Life is about habits and behaviors. All time represents is a series of moments and actions stitched together that seemingly always exist in the present. We can reflect on what we have done in the past, think about what we may do in the future, but we can really only ever control now. Part of my job is observation. Sadly, my best case study is often myself when it comes to areas of needed improvement. I never cease to amaze myself with what I consciously do wrong and regret later although I am getting better. I am also certain my human experience isn’t unique. You may catch your self doing some of the following things over the course of any given day that inhibit rather than promote feelings of self-satisfaction and happiness:
In my experience there are two types of leaders: those who build alliances across the span of their career and those who leave casualties in their wake. It’s always a pleasure to work with people who operate in the former category. Leaders require followers and the more people who see themselves in your camp the better. At the end of your career, you will hopefully be able to look back and see many lives that you have changed for the better and a large number of mutually beneficial relationships. Approaching life from a win-win perspective just makes plain common sense.
John Mellencamp has a great line in one of his songs that goes, “you’ve got to stand for something, or your gonna fall for anything…” In my experience working with leaders in both the for profit and no profit sectors, this couldn’t be more true. There is nothing more frustrating than working with someone who is not sure what he/she believes in and/or the difference they want to make in the world. By the way, making more money should be an outcome of doing something else well not the sole objective. I can sometimes quibble with what people come up with but it is very helpful and informative if I know what someone values and where they stand. A ship without a rudder will drift anywhere.
There are many things in life beyond our realm of control, but you get to decide how you behave. You can take the high road or low road. You follow the belief that two wrongs don’t make a right or you can escalate the pattern of bad behavior. You can allow people to continually stretch your moral/ethical boundaries or you can stick to them. You can play the victim or move on. You get to decide who is in your social circle and who isn’t. I listened to a speaker utter the phrase many years ago that, “we are what we tolerate” and it resonated with me right away. We are also what we continually do and who we do it with.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn in my line of work is that you can’t save everyone. Despite your good intentions and best efforts, sometimes the formula will not work. In some cases, you might have to accept the fact that you are not the right fit for a given engagement or client relationship. In other instances, there is always a reason why someone is struggling and until they fully come to grips with this fact and take ownership of their behavior, there is only so much you can do.
We all get in our way sometimes and leaders are no different. Just because we know we shouldn’t do something doesn’t always mean we won’t do it. However, not all mistakes are created equal. There are fifteen things a leader should strive never to do:
I would have to say that I tend to be an impatient person (although I’m working on it). I’m sure everyone who knows me wouldn’t argue with this point. I prefer taking action to waiting. Once I make up my mind about something, I just want to move forward and make progress. In addition, I get frustrated with others who don’t operate with the same sense of urgency that I do. It literally boggles my mind how slow and uninspired many people seem on a daily basis. However, with time and some maturity, I’ve begun to realize that the problem isn’t always them and maybe sometimes it’s me.
It may take awhile but most liars eventually get caught. There is a great saying that “if you don’t want to forget what you did, then always tells the truth.” I also like the common refrain these days that “…the cover-up is often worse than the crime.” Honesty matters! If people feel like that they should regularly question what you are telling them, then they won’t trust you. This is a problem that many our current (and past) political leaders have to deal with and it is of their own making. All you have to do is turn on the TV or read a newspaper or magazine and there is ample evidence of individuals dealing with the consequences of being caught in a lie.
It’s very easy to get so caught up in our own life and forget about the needs of other people especially those not directly in our social or professional circles. However, it’s been proven time and time again and that real joy comes from helping others not just focusing on ourselves. Leaders are in a unique position to set a good example in this regard. I believe it isn’t just a coincidence that the most philanthropic and community involved companies tend to do better than their less engaged peers on the business front. People want to know that you care about more than just profit especially your employees.
I still believe that acting in a friendly fashion gives you a boost in business and in life. Just taking the time to acknowledge another person in a nice way makes a difference for them and for you. It’s depressing how few people actually smile and say hello when you cross paths with them. Basic common courtesies like saying “please” and “thank you” or holding open the door for the person behind you take minimal effort. I actually think it takes more work not to act this way. Every day you get to choose to make the world a little brighter or darker based on your attitude and actions.
When you lead others it’s about them not you. Many leaders struggle with this idea especially those with big egos. The truth is that without followers there isn’t a need for a leader. People need to see their own interests aligned with yours. In addition, there needs to be something that holds them together besides the strength of your personality, size of your brain, and/or level of your self-confidence.
I’ve seen many talented leaders and managers get in their own way when it comes to getting their point across. They almost seem oblivious or worse indifferent to the vibe in the room and how their message is being received. You can be right, but alienate other people if you are not careful. How you communicate can often be as important as what you communicate. Going all the way back to our grade schools days, nobody likes a “know it all.” Arrogance is a very unattractive personality trait. We all pay close attention to how those in positions of authority treat other people.
Talk is cheap. As a sports fan it’s amazing to watch how many individuals talk a big game and then don’t deliver. In life, business or sports it’s better to let your actions do your talking. I’m always surprised by players or coaches who draw unnecessary attention to themselves or their teams and literally motivate the opposition through what they say. Winning games at a professional level is hard enough without putting a bull’s-eye on your back. When you put yourself on a pedestal all you do is encourage other people to want to knock you off it.
In business and life it is important to understand what motivates you. There are good motivators and bad ones. Striving to make a positive difference in the world and/or building a great company is a much healthier objective than simply accumulating personal wealth or power. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reap the rewards of your efforts. There are few things more valuable than a person working hard and doing well at something they consider to be meaningful and important. However, be wary of seeking money just for the sake of it. Wealth should be the outcome not the objective.
There seems to be a dearth of good strong corporate values these days (and basic common sense). While the objective of any business should be to make a good profit, it should also be to build long term sustaining economic value that accurately reflects the risks inherent in their internal and external environments. The best way to navigate these risks is to have a strong sense of who you are and what you will and will not do.
It is always better to be proactive rather than reactive in life. Change is inevitable. If you try and fight it you will only end up resentful and suffer the consequences. Sometimes the signals are obvious that you need to make changes other times they are not. However, waiting for a crisis to force change is rarely a wise strategy.