Leadership and followership
Leadership and followership

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4 Common mistakes leaders make

Described image
Figure 4 All leaders will make mistakes.

You don’t have to be a poor leader to make mistakes. All leaders will have good and bad outcomes regularly throughout their careers, no matter how good their intentions. The point is to learn from those mistakes and, even better, learn from other people’s mistakes before you make them yourself!

Rebecca Fielding offers the following advice:

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Activity 5 encourages you to consider some common examples of leadership mistakes, and to suggest possible solutions.

Activity 5 Common mistakes and possible solutions

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Here are six examples of common leadership mistakes. Use the space below each one to propose possible solutions, and then reveal the comment.

Lack of clear vision

Your team doesn’t know why they are doing something or what they are working towards. They don’t have a sense of what success looks like. They lack direction and waste time on activities that might, or might not, be useful.

Possible solutions:

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Discussion

Be clear about what your team are working towards or what success looks like. Regularly communicate with them in different ways to create a shared sense of purpose. Don’t make it complicated – create a concise message, or better still, involve them in creating that message. Your team will be more engaged and better motivated as a result.

Poor communication

Individuals don’t know what you want from them or whether you think they are doing a good job, so they feel uncertain and lack commitment. They don’t know how best to communicate with you so they stop trying.

Possible solutions:

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Discussion

Provide timely praise or constructive feedback. Make yourself regularly available for debate and discussion. The more you understand what motivates or concerns them, the better you will be at finding ways to inspire them and mutual trust will grow. The team will feel valued and important.

Micromanagement and failure to delegate

Your team members feel that you don’t trust them or value their input, and are demotivated. They start to wait for your instructions and are less likely to show initiative.

Possible solutions:

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Discussion

Find the right balance between letting trusted members of your team take responsibility for key activities, and overseeing those activities to ensure they’re moving forward as you expect. Employees will feel empowered and trusted and that will increase their commitment and motivation.

Recruiting the wrong people

Individuals who lack key skills or have the wrong attitude can be very damaging to both team morale and the progress of a project. If you thought that person would fit in, what does that say about your opinion of everyone else?

Possible solutions:

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Discussion

Take the time to surround yourself with good people who you can trust and delegate to. You’ll have more time to focus on the elements of leadership that will maximise team performance and get the best results.

Failing to develop your team

You haven’t invested in upskilling your team, yet your expectations are high and keep growing. Employees feel unappreciated and out of their depth, losing confidence and motivation.

Possible solutions:

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Discussion

Get to know the developmental needs of your team and align them with your vision and strategic plan. Make sure that everyone has an opportunity to develop themselves (including you). It doesn’t have to be an expensive training course – it could be work shadowing in a similar department etc.

Failing to lead by example

You never attend their meetings or events, so they assume you aren’t interested in what they do. You are always on your phone. Although they are business calls, your team don’t know that. They start to copy your behaviour.

Possible solutions:

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Discussion

Attend key team meetings or events the team have organised and ensure you participate in an appropriate way. Model the behaviours you look for in your team. A good work–life balance is important, so make sure you work reasonable hours and take the time to check on anyone who is still in the office when you leave.

The solutions to each of the issues highlighted will vary depending on your context, and you may find that several solutions are required to address the issue effectively. Identifying and acknowledging the mistake is the starting point, then you can start to consider other behaviours and approaches that might be more successful.

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