As the Head of Corporate Business at one of the largest conglomerates in Bangladesh, I exercise strategic leadership everyday to achieve corporate objects and goals. To better prepare myself for this challenging task, I read a lot and try to learn from other’s experiences and perspectives. One of the books that helped me to avoid some of the common mistakes committed by managers and leaders is “Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make” by Hans Finzel. 

And, here is a summary of what I learned.  

Mistake #1: Having a Top-Down Attitude

The top-down leadership style is quite common and comes naturally to many people. Such autocratic leadership is mostly about command and control. While servant leadership is much more rare and difficult, if practices consciously, it ensures sustainable development of the team and the organization. Thus, leaders who want to be effective should see themselves at the bottom of an inverted pyramid.

Mistake #2: A ‘Type A’ Personality: Putting Paperwork before Peoplework

The second mistake is about having a ‘Type A’ personality, meaning putting paperwork before People work. A set of characteristics of such leadership style includes being impatient, excessively time-conscious, insecure about one’s status, highly competitive, hostile and aggressive, and incapable of relaxation. Leaders with similar personalities prefer to focus on paperwork rather than the people involved in the work. As a result, people feel demotivated and underappreciated by their superiors

Mistake #3: The Absence of Affirmation

The ‘Absence of Affirmation’ is the third mistake that leaders make. Affirmations come in the form of motivation which is more than financial incentives. People thrive on positive reinforcement and encouragement.  

How can you avoid committing this mistake? Start appreciating people and do not underestimate the infinite possibilities of extending kindness to people. 

Mistake #4: No Room for Mavericks?

The fourth mistake is about not having rooms for mavericks. You may wonder who a maverick is! They are independent individuals who do not go along with a group or party. They question the status quo and bring in new perspectives to the system. 

Since mavericks can be quite messy, organizations often try to contain them. However, if the mavericks are given enough space and proper support, they can be a real asset for the organization. 

A word of caution: Do differentiate between the troublemakers and the mavericks. True mavericks bring in new ideas because they care about the organizations unlike the troublemakers who try to create confusion in the system. 

Mistake #5: Dictatorship in Decision-making

“I Know All the Answers” is a very favorite thought for dictators who deny the value of others’ opinions and suggestions. Dictators often use people and do not empower them. Effective leaders should empower individuals who are responsible to decide on how the job should be done. 

It is time that leaders become facilitators and start practicing participatory leadership in the organizations. The purpose is to reinforce trust and empowerment among the team members. 

Mistake #6: Dirty Delegation 

Dirty delegation primarily entails micromanagement and over-management. Leaders who commit this cardinal sin of poor leadership get restless and constantly watch over the employees. Such dirty delegation happens when ineffective leaders fear of losing authority, fear of work being done incorrectly, and fear of depending on others etc. 

To avoid this mistake, leaders should trust their team members and have faith in their capabilities. Moreover, they should also be flexible in their approach to delegation and monitoring. 

Mistake #7: Communication Chaos 

It is quite natural to assume that people will know what you know. It is always better to be explicit in communication so that any unforeseen and avoidable wild rumors can be mitigated. Especially when leaders manage a large group of people, they should give greater attention to passionate and clear communication. 

Leadership is largely about effective communication and thus, should be a forte for every effective leader. Leaders must communicate in four directions: inward, outward, upward, and downward. 

Mistake #8: Missing the Clues of Corporate Culture 

This mistake is specifically applicable for new incumbents for the leadership positions.  Failing to understand the culture of the organization that you would start leading, will lead to chaos, mistrust and stress in the workplace. On the other hand, people who have spent considerable time in the organization, often become too rigid and do not accept opinions or values that differ from their own beliefs. 

Both these mistakes are counter-productive to effective leadership. Thus, leaders should make this a priority to cultivate, and nurture a culture which is flexible and dynamic in nature. 

Mistake #9: Success without Successors 

“Achieving success without successors” is a common failure made by great leaders. Often, their successes last till they are present in the system and collapse once they leave. Thus, creating a credible successor is imperative to continue the legacy of the leader. Mentoring future leadership should be an inseparable function of successful leadership. 

Mistake #10: Failure to Focus on the Future  

The purpose of an effective leader is to share a vision which will motivate people to strive for realizing it. Leaders can practically and dramatically improve organizational performance by understanding the limitations of the current solutions and thriving for innovation needed for the future. 

Here is a beautiful quote by Chris Hadfield to summarize what we have discussed so far: 

“Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping a team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine.”

Chris Hadfield
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